What Is Coronavirus Disease?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a novel (new) coronavirus, one that has not been previously identified in humans, and is responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness that became a global pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 is different from other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.
What Are Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease?
The first symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) appear about two to 14 days after exposure and include:
Other early symptoms of coronavirus disease include:
Less common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may include:
Emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention (call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital’s emergency department):
- Difficulty breathing
- Bluish lips or face
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
What Causes Coronavirus Disease?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets that are propelled into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
Less commonly, COVID-19 may be transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.
How Is Coronavirus Disease Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose coronavirus disease with a history and physical exam, looking for symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). They will also ask the patient of they have any known recent exposure to COVID-19.
If COVID-19 is suspected, a long swab is used to take a sample from the nose or throat, which is then sent to a lab for testing to diagnose the illness. Some viral tests are rapid and results are available within a few hours. Other tests may take several days to receive results.
An antibody test can also help determine if a person had a past COVID-19 infection. An antibody test is not used to diagnose current infections because it takes up to 3 weeks following infection for the body to produce antibodies to the virus. When a person has antibodies to COVID-19 they may have some protection against re-infection, however, researchers do not yet know how much protection antibodies provide or for how long any protections might last.
What Is the Treatment for Coronavirus Disease?
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and supportive care is aimed at relieving symptoms in mild cases.
Patients with mild illness are usually advised to remain home and self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus. Treatments for mild coronavirus disease symptoms include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
- Cough suppressants
- Adequate fluid intake
For more severe coronavirus disease illness, patients may require hospitalization. Treatments may include:
- Antiviral therapy with remdesivir
- Convalescent plasma
- Immunoglobulin products
- Interleukin inhibitors
- Kinase inhibitors
- Antithrombotic therapy: anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy
- High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen
- Mechanical ventilation
Current guidelines neither recommend nor advise against the use of vitamin C, vitamin D, or zinc for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Zinc should not be taken in doses above the recommended daily allowance (RDA) due to the risk of toxicity.
Hydroxychloroquine has been touted as a possible treatment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but studies to date have shown it to be ineffective with a high risk of fatal heart arrythmias, and it is not recommended.
What Are Complications of Coronavirus Disease?
Doctors and researchers are still learning about the effects of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the body. Lingering complications of the illness are being discovered well after patients have recovered.
Known coronavirus disease (COVID-19) complications include:
How Do You Prevent Coronavirus Disease?
To protect yourself from getting coronavirus disease (COVID-19):
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and use a sufficient amount to rub in for 20 seconds.
- Do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- If there is an outbreak in your community, stay at home and limit close contact with others.
- Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.
- Wear a face mask when out in public.
To protect others:
- Stay home if you’re sick, unless you need medical care.
- Wear a face mask around other people if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Discard used tissues. Immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes countertops, doorknobs, handles, tables, light switches, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Use EPA-registered household disinfectants.