A coronavirus is a type of common virus which causes an infection in the nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are actually not dangerous.
In early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified SARS-CoV-2 as a new type of coronavirus. The outbreak quickly spread around the world.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 that can trigger what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. It can affect the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs).
It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly.
SARS-CoV-2 is one of the 7-types of coronavirus, including the ones that cause severe diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The other coronaviruses cause most of the colds that affect us during the year but aren’t a serious threat for otherwise healthy people.
Symptoms of COVID-19
The main symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Chills, sometimes with shaking
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell or taste
The virus can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock, and death. Many COVID-19 complications may be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm. This is when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. They can kill tissue and damage your organs.
If you notice the following severe symptoms in yourself or a loved one, get medical help right away:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Ongoing chest pain or pressure
- New confusion
- Can’t wake up fully
- Bluish lips or face
If you’re infected, symptoms can show up in as early as 2 days or as many as 14. It varies from person to person.
According to researchers in China, these were the most common symptoms among people who had COVID-19:
- Fever 99%
- Fatigue 70%
- Cough 59%
- Lack of appetite 40%
- Body aches 35%
- Shortness of breath 31%
- Mucus/phlegm 27%
Some people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 have also have dangerous blood clots, including in their legs, lungs, and arteries.
What to do if you think you have it
If you live in or have traveled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading:
- If you don’t feel well, stay home. Even if you have mild symptoms like a headache and runny nose, stay in until you’re better. This lets doctors focus on people who are more seriously ill and protects health care workers and people you might meet along the way. You might hear this called self-quarantine. Try to stay in a separate room away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can.
- Call the doctor if you have trouble breathing. You need to get medical help as soon as possible. Calling ahead (rather than showing up) will let the doctor direct you to the proper place, which may not be your doctor’s office. If you don’t have a regular doctor, call your local board of health. They can tell you where to go for testing and treatment.
- Follow your doctor’s advice and keep up with the news on COVID-19. Between your doctor and health care authorities, you’ll get the care you need and information on how to prevent the virus from spreading.