What You Need to Know About Coronavirus Disease 2019: Part 1

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Published on April 09, 2020

what you need to know about coronavirus, COVID-19, coronavirus symptoms, coronavirus treatmentWhat You Need to Know About Coronavirus Disease 2019: Part 1

what causes the coronavirus disease, who is at risk for coronavirus, what the symptoms of coronavirus are, and how the disease is diagnosed and treated

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first found in people in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and is a respiratory illness. It's caused by a new (novel) coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. There are many types of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a very common cause of bronchitis. They may sometimes cause lung infection (pneumonia). Symptoms can range from mild to severe respiratory illness. These viruses are also found in some animals. 

In Part 1 of “What You Need to Know” we discuss what causes the disease, who is at risk, what the symptoms are, and how the disease is diagnosed and treated. In Part 2 we will discuss what you can do to prevent the COVID-19, how to prepare and protect yourself and others and what to do if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick. 

What causes COVID-19?

Public health officials are working to find the source of what causes COVID-19. How the virus spreads is not yet fully understood, but it seems to spread and infect people fairly easily. Some people who have been infected in an area may be unsure how or where they became infected. The virus may be spread through droplets of fluid that a person coughs or sneezes into the air. It may 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 COVID-19?

You are at risk for infection if you’ve been to a place where people have been sick with this virus. You are at risk if you:

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

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Some people have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after contact with the virus. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be like other health conditions. Make sure to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. 

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look at the risk for COVID in your community and will ask about your symptoms. He or she will also ask about your recent travel and contact with sick people. If your healthcare provider thinks you may have the COVID-19 virus, he or she will work closely with your local health department. Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. COVID-19 is diagnosed by:

  • Nose and throat swab. A cotton-tipped swab is wiped inside your nose or throat. This is done to check for viruses in your nasal mucus.
  • Sputum culture. A small sample of mucus coughed from your lungs (sputum) is collected if you have a cough. It is checked for the virus. 

How is COVID-19 treated?

 There is currently no medicine to treat the virus. Treatment is done to help your body while it fights the virus. This is known as supportive care. Supportive care may include:

  • Pain medicine. These include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. They are used to help ease pain and reduce fever.
  • Bed rest. This helps your body fight the illness.

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. 

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


Online Medical Reviewer: Arnold Lentnek MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Renee Watson RN

Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2020

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The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.