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Health Information Center


  • Pamela Jones, MA
Publication Type:



(Coronavirus Disease 2019)


COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is an infection of the airways and lungs. It causes a minor cold like illness in most people. Others may develop severe breathing problems or illness.


The virus is passed from person to person. Someone who is ill can release droplets with the virus when they sneeze or cough. The virus passes when someone breathes in air around someone releasing the virus or the droplets enter the mouth, nose, or eyes.

Rarely, the droplets can also land on surfaces around someone who is ill. Touching the surface, and then touching mouth, nose, or eyes can spread the virus.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of COVID-19 are:

  • Close contact with someone who has COVID-19, meaning being within 6 feet of someone for a total of 15 minutes or more.
  • Spending time in an area with high rates of COVID
  • Jobs that raise the level of exposure, such as healthcare providers and teachers

Follow trusted sources like government sites and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the risk of COVID where you live.

The risk of severe infections may be more common in:

  • People 50 years of age or older
  • People with certain health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, or diabetes
  • People who are not vaccinated


Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They often appear 2 to 14 days after contact with the virus. Symptoms can vary based on the COVID virus, but common problems are:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in muscles
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Some people may have more severe symptoms and need emergency care right away for problems like:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Nonstop chest pain or pressure
  • Changes in awareness, confusion, or problems waking
  • Bluish color in lips or face


The doctor will ask about symptoms. There are many viruses and health issues that cause similar symptoms. They may suspect COVID-19 if you are in high risk areas or have had close contact with someone who has or may have COVID-19.

A cotton swab will take a sample of fluid from the nose or throat. This test will confirm COVID-19. Blood tests may also be done to look for signs of infection.



To lower the risk of COVID-19:

  • Get the primary and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds each time. Use alcohol based hand cleaner if soap and water is not available.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid travel to high risk areas. Check with government travel restrictions and precautions.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have a higher risk of severe COVID because of age or health.
  • Consider use of N-95 masks when exposed to others.

Mild to Moderate Illness

It can take a few days to a few weeks to clear the COVID-19 virus from the body. Many will not have symptoms. Others may have mild symptoms that can be managed at home. Rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine will help until the infections passes.





  • Advice for the public: coronavirus disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). United States Department of Labor website. Available at: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus#what_is.
  • Travel. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/covid19.
  • COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/covid-19-novel-coronavirus.
  • Q&A World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) technical documents for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance. Accessed February 14, 2022.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.