What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a novel coronavirus, not previously identified in humans, 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. It is also a different virus than the flu (influenza).
The virus is called coronavirus because it is part of the coronavirus family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface because corona in Latin means “crown.”
The name COVID-19 follows the World Health Organization (WHO) practice for naming new human infectious diseases. ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease, and ‘19’ for 2019, the year in which the disease was first identified.
What Are Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) appear about 2 to 14 days after exposure and include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Altered sense of taste and/or smell
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
- Loss of appetite
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
- Inability to stay awake
What Causes Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
How Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Diagnosed?
Doctors check if patients have any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), and also ask if the patient had any known recent exposure to the virus.
If COVID-19 is suspected, a viral test is administered in which 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 tests are rapid and results are available within a few hours. Other tests may take several days to receive results.
An antibody test can determine if a person had a past COVID-19 infection. This 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 (COVID-19)?
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus (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 (COVID-19) symptoms include:
- Pain relievers
- Cough suppressants
- Adequate fluid intake
For more severe illness, patients may require hospitalization. Treatments in a hospital 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
Current guidelines neither recommend nor advise against the use of vitamin C, vitamin D, or zinc. 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, but studies to date have shown it to be ineffective in treating coronavirus. It also carries a high risk of fatal heart arrythmias, and it is not recommended as a treatment for COVID-19.
How Do You Prevent Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
To protect yourself from getting coronavirus (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.