Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Symptom Checker

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness. It's caused by a new (novel) coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. There are many types of coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are a very common cause of upper respiratory tract infections, or the common cold. They may sometimes cause lung infection (pneumonia). Symptoms can range from mild to severe respiratory illness. These viruses are also found in some animals.

COVID-19 is a rapidly-emerging infectious disease. This means that scientists are actively researching it. There are information updates regularly. Visit the CDC website for the latest information. Or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

What causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

We now know that COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Public health officials and scientists continue to study the virus and how it is spread. From available information, we know that the virus is likely primarily spread through large droplets of fluid that a person coughs or sneezes into the air. It may also be spread if you touch a surface with virus on it, such as a handle or object, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Who is at risk for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

You are at risk for infection if you:

  • Recently traveled to or live in an area with a COVID-19 outbreak
  • Had contact with a person who was diagnosed with or who may have COVID-19

What are the symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Some people have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Symptoms can also vary from person to person. As experts learn more about COVID-19, other symptoms are being reported. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after contact with the virus. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache or body aches
  • Chills or repeated shaking with chills
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or belly (abdominal) pain
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste

You can check your symptoms with our COVID-19 symptom checker.

How is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look at the risk for COVID in your community and will ask about your symptoms. They will also ask about your recent travel and contact with sick people. If your healthcare provider thinks you may have the COVID-19 virus, they will work closely with your local health department to see if you should be tested. Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. COVID-19 is diagnosed by:

  • Nose-throat swab. A cotton-tipped swab is wiped inside your nose to the back of your throat. This is a test that looks for evidence of the virus to tell you if you have a current COVID-19 infection.

If your healthcare provider thinks or confirms that you have COVID-19, you may have other tests. These tests may include: 

  • Sputum culture. A small sample of mucus coughed from your lungs (sputum) may be collected if you have a moist cough. It may be checked for the virus or to look for pneumonia.
  • Imaging tests. You may have a chest X-ray or CT scan.
  • Antibody blood test. Antibody tests are being looked at to find out if a person has previously been infected with the virus and may now have antibodies in their blood to give some immunity. The accuracy and availability of antibody tests vary. An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection because it can take up to a few weeks after infection to make antibodies. It's not yet known how long immunity lasts after being infected with the virus.

How is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treated?

There is currently no vaccine or medicine proven to prevent or treat the virus. Some experimental medicines are being tested for COVID-19. Other medicines that are already available are being tested for use on the virus. Other medicines used to treat other conditions are being looked at for COVID-19, but they are not currently approved to treat it.

The most proven treatments right now are those to help your body while it fights the virus. This is known as supportive care. Supportive care may include:

  • Getting rest. This helps your body fight the illness.
  • Staying hydrated. Drinking liquids is the best way to prevent dehydration. Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquids every day, or as advised by your provider. Also check with your provider about which fluids are best for you. Don't drink fluids that contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine. These are used to help ease pain and reduce fever. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for which OTC medicine to use.

For severe illness, you may need to stay in the hospital. Care during severe illness may include: 

  • IV (intravenous) fluids. These are given through a vein to help keep your body hydrated.
  • Oxygen. Supplemental oxygen or ventilation with a breathing machine (ventilator) may be given. This is done so you get enough oxygen in your body.
  • Prone positioning. Depending on how sick you are during your hospital stay, your healthcare team may turn you regularly on your stomach. This is called prone positioning. It's done to help increase the amount of oxygen you get to your lungs. Follow your healthcare team's instructions on position changes while you're in the hospital. Also follow their discharge advice on the best positions to help your breathing once you go home.

People who have had COVID-19 and are fully recovered may be asked by their healthcare team to consider donating plasma. This is called COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation. Plasma from people fully recovered from COVID-19 may contain antibodies to help fight COVID-19 in people who are currently seriously ill with the disease. It's not fully known if the donated plasma will work well as a treatment, but the FDA is looking at it and has asked the American Red Cross to help with plasma donation and collection. Talk with your provider to learn more about convalescent plasma donation and whether you qualify to donate.

Managing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at home

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • Stay home. Don’t leave your home unless you need to get medical care. Don't go to work, school, or public areas. Don't use public transportation or taxis.
  • Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. Call your provider’s office before going. They can prepare and give you instructions. This will help prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Limit contact with other people in your home.
  • Wear a face mask. This is to protect other people from your germs. If you are not able to wear a mask, your caregivers should when you are in the same room with them. Wear the mask so that it covers both the nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share household items or food.
  • Cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away. Then wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands often.

If you are caring for a child or other member of your household with COVID-19:

  • Follow all instructions from healthcare staff.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear protective clothing as advised.
  • Make sure the sick person wears a mask. If they can't wear a mask, don't stay in the same room with the person. If you must be in the room, wear a face mask. Wear the mask so that it covers both the nose and mouth.
  • Keep track of the sick person’s symptoms.
  • Clean surfaces, fabrics, and laundry thoroughly.
  • Keep other people and pets away from the sick person.

What are possible complications of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

In many cases, this virus can cause infection (pneumonia) in both lungs. In some cases, this can cause death, especially in older adults and people who have serious health conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes.

As experts learn more about COVID-19, other complications are being reported that may be linked to COVID-19. Rarely, some children have developed severe complications called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C seems to be similar to Kawaski disease, a rare condition causing inflammation of blood vessels and body organs.

It's not yet known if MIS-C happens only in children, or if adults are also at risk. It's also not known if it's related to COVID-19 because many children, but not all, have tested positive for the virus. Experts continue to study MIS-C. The CDC advises healthcare providers to report to local health departments any person under age 21 years old who is ill enough to be in the hospital and has all of the following:

  • A fever over 100.4°F for more than 24 hours and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test or exposure to the virus in the last 4 weeks
  • Inflammation in at least 2 organs such as the heart, lungs, or kidneys with lab tests that show inflammation
  • No other diagnoses besides COVID-19 explain the child's symptoms When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider:

  • If you’ve recently traveled or have been in an area with COVID-19 and have symptoms
  • If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and your symptoms are worse

Reviewed by Julia Shaklee Sammons, MD, MSCE , Susan E. Coffin, MD, MPH


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