What is the novel coronavirus?

The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus is a virus strain that was first detected in December 2019. The scientific name for the virus is SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. Health experts are concerned because much is unknown about this new virus, but it has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in vulnerable people, especially the elderly and those with serious health conditions.

What is coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19, is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

How does SARS-CoV-2 spread?

Health experts are still learning the details about how SARS-CoV-2 spreads. Other coronaviruses spread from an infected person to others through:

  • The air by coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
  • In rare cases, contact with feces

How severe is COVID-19?

Experts are still learning about the range of illness from COVID-19. Based on what is known at this time, most reported cases have had mild illness (similar to a common cold) but many have also had severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization. So far, deaths have been reported mainly in older adults who had other health conditions. Reported illness among children appears to be milder, but children with other health conditions might be at risk for more severe illness. Public health officials will know more about the spectrum of disease with more information about confirmed cases.

What are the symptoms?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

When to seek medical attention

If you have any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

How can I prevent getting COVID-19?

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or, if not available, use hand sanitize
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

Currently, there are no vaccines available to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.

How is COVID-19 treated?

There are no medications specifically approved for coronavirus. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some cases develop pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization.

*Content courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health.