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Coronavirus 101: What You Need to Know

Coronavirus (also called COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads easily. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that was first identified during an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

Experts think the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person in these ways:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Droplets also may be breathed into the lungs.

Is it Possible to Spread COVID-19 if You’re not Sick?

Maybe. People are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest and have symptoms. However, it may be possible to spread the virus before you have symptoms. There have been reports of some people who didn’t have symptoms spreading infection, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Can You Get COVID-19 from Touching a Contaminated Surface or Object?

It may be possible to get infected with COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Be sure to regularly clean and disinfect surfaces you touch a lot every day. These include doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

What are Symptoms of COVID-19 Infection?

People with COVID-19 infection may have flu-like symptoms ranging from mild illness to severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. But some people with COVID-19 never have symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing

What Should You do if You Think You Have COVID-19?

If you have a cough, fever or trouble breathing and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health care provider before you visit. Your provider can give you medical advice and answer questions about COVID-19 testing. About 8 in 10 people who get sick with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and can recover at home.

Learn more about what you should do if you think you have COVID-19.

Before you go,

Get additional tips on keeping your family healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more COVID-19 articles.