What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in humans. They are called “corona” because of the crown-shaped spikes on the surface of the virus. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and the common cold are examples of coronaviruses that cause illness in humans. The new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Since then, the virus has spread to all continents.
How many people are infected with COVID-19?
The number of infected people changes daily. At the time of writing this article (10/11/2021), more than 196,910,000 people in the world have been infected. More than 4,850,000 people have died. Some 192 countries and territories on all continents have already reported cases of COVID-19.
How do you get COVID-19?
COVID-19 enters your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes (directly from droplets in the air or transfer of the virus from your hands to your face). The virus travels to the back of the nostrils and the mucous membrane at the back of the throat. It attaches to the cells there, begins to multiply, and moves into the lung tissue. From there, the virus can spread to other tissues in the body.
How does the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread from person to person?
COVID-19 is likely to spread:
- The virus travels in respiratory droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, or breathes near you (within 6 feet). You can become infected if you inhale these droplets.
- You can also get COVID-19 by close contact (touching, shaking hands) with an infected person and then touching your face.
- It is considered possible to get COVID-19 after touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands. But it is believed to be unlikely.
Where do coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are often found in bats, cats, and camels. Viruses live but do not infect animals. Sometimes these viruses then spread to different animal species. Viruses can change (mutate) as they are transferred to other species. Eventually, the virus can jump from animal species and begins to infect humans. In the case of COVID-19, the first infected people in Wuhan, China, are believed to have contracted the virus at a food market that sold meat, fish, and live animals. Although researchers don’t know exactly how people became infected, they already have evidence that the virus can be spread directly from person to person through close contact.
What is different about the delta variant of COVID-19?
It is normal for viruses to mutate, especially coronaviruses and influenza viruses. These mutations create new variants of the virus. Sometimes variants are less contagious, less severe, or have slightly different presenting symptoms. Unfortunately, the delta variant of COVID-19 (a strain called B.1.617.2) is more highly contagious and more likely to cause severe illness.
How long is a person infected with COVID-19 considered contagious?
If you are infected with COVID-19, it can take several days to develop symptoms, but you are contagious during this time. You are no longer contagious 10 days after your symptoms started.
The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19 to other people is to:
- Stay 6 feet away from others whenever possible.
- Wear a cloth mask that covers your mouth and nose when you are around other people.
- Wash your hands often. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces. Bring in outside air as much as possible.
- Stay isolated at home if you feel sick with symptoms that could be COVID-19 or have a positive test for COVID-19.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
How soon after being infected with COVID-19 will I develop symptoms?
The time between becoming infected and showing symptoms (incubation period) can range from 2 to 14 days. The average time before experiencing symptoms is five days. Symptoms can range in severity from very mild to severe. In about 80% of patients, COVID-19 causes only mild symptoms, although this can change as variants emerge.
Who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19?
People most at risk of contracting COVID-19 are:
- People who live in or have recently travelled to any area with ongoing active spread.
- People who have had close contact with a person who has a laboratory-confirmed case or a suspected case of the COVID-19 virus. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period.
- People over the age of 60 who have pre-existing medical conditions or a weakened immune system.
Have certain ethnic groups been more affected by COVID-19?
Yes. Many researchers have analyzed data across the country and in some large cities, looking at the number of confirmed cases and deaths by race and ethnicity and related factors. They found that African American and Hispanic Latino populations have disproportionately higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
The researchers suspect this could be because these ethnic groups tend to:
- Living in more crowded housing situations, living in densely populated areas, and in multi-generational households, making social distancing practices more difficult.
- They work in consumer-facing service industries and are more likely to use public transportation to get to work, putting them at risk of increased exposure to COVID-19.
- Being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19 due to higher rates of existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and heart, liver, and kidney disease.
- Being more likely to be uninsured or lack a consistent source of care, limiting access to COVID-19 testing and treatment services.
Researchers are still studying other factors that may make ethnic groups more susceptible to negative outcomes from COVID-19, including:
- Possible differences in lung tissue.
- Socioeconomic status.
If I recover from a case of COVID-19, can I get it again?
Reinfection with COVID-19 is rare but has been reported.
What are the symptoms of infection with the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The CDC says you may have coronavirus if you have these symptoms or a combination of symptoms:
- Fever or chills.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Muscle or body aches.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Throat pain.
- Congestion or runny nose.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Additional symptoms are possible.
Symptoms can appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus. Children have similar but usually milder symptoms than adults. Older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, are at higher risk of more serious complications from COVID-19.