What is a coronavirus, and what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Not all coronaviruses are COVID-19. A novel (or new) coronavirus is a strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 is a type of novel coronavirus that is spreading from person to person in many countries and states, including Colorado.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person and is thought to be transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms, especially early on, may be mild and feel like a common cold. Early symptoms could include a combination of cough, body aches, fatigue, and chest tightness. A fever may not appear until several days into the illness, and some people may never develop a fever throughout the duration of the illness. People who have symptoms should get tested and self-isolate.

More advanced symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, and more. These people also should get tested, self-isolate, and contact a medical provider as necessary. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. 

How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?

It depends on the severity of the illness.

How long does it take to start showing symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19?

It can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days to begin showing symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 prevented and treated?

Vaccines to combat COVID-19 are being distributed now to residents according to the plan put out by the State of Colorado 

There is no specific, evidence-based treatment for COVID-19 at this time, but there are studies involving promising treatments, such as the antiviral medication Remdesivir. Many of the symptoms can be treated, and therefore treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Many people will be able to recover on their own. Scientists are reporting progress with clinical trials of an antiviral medication called Remdesivir, but trials are still in progress to find out whether this is a suitable and effective treatment.

How serious is COVID-19? Who is at risk?

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and sometimes death. According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild. Anyone can experience severe illness from this disease, but there are a number of groups at higher risk of severe illness, including:  People who are 65and older.  People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma. People who have serious heart conditions.  People who have weakened immune systems.  People determined to be at high risk by a licensed health care provider.  ... Read More

Can food and drinking water be contaminated with COVID-19?

  • Generally speaking, food is not contaminated with coronaviruses, and cooking would kill any virus in the food.
  • According to the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation, normal chlorination treatment should be sufficient to kill the virus in drinking water systems. Their conclusion is based on studies of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Does COVID-19 stay in the air?

There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19, and we can’t be sure how long this virus stays in the air. We advise taking a cautious approach to prevent spread. Continue to wear your mask and social distance when out in public. 

Can packages or products shipped from other places be contaminated with COVID-19?

There is likely a very low risk of spreading the virus from products or packages that are shipped over days and weeks. Coronaviruses are generally spread through respiratory droplets and don’t survive well on surfaces. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through imported goods or shipped packages.

Does COVID-19 live in swimming pools?

Normal swimming pool disinfection techniques are thought to be effective against COVID-19. 

What is considered a close contact?

For COVID-19, close contact includes: Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19. Caring for a sick person with COVID-19. Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19, although just passing by a person for a few seconds should not cause you to be overly concerned. Being in direct contact with fluids from a sick person with COVID-19. This includes being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc. ... Read More

What is “community spread?”

Community spread (or transmission) means there are cases and outbreaks in many communities where people are spreading the virus to other people. 

Can a person with COVID-19 spread the disease without having symptoms?

We are still learning about the virus, but we believe that the majority of spread is through symptomatic cases, but pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread may also occur. For that reason, it is critical for people to follow physical distancing recommendations, wear cloth face coverings, and wash their hands.

Are people of non-U.S. descent at higher risk for getting or spreading COVID-19?

No. Like any other virus, no identity, community, ethnic, or racial group is more at risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.

Why is the disease called coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19?

The name of this disease is Coronavirus Disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”

How did this outbreak begin?

On Dec. 31, 2019, Chinese health officials alerted the World Health Organization of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The pneumonia was caused by a virus that did not match any other known virus.

Has the cause of COVID-19 been identified?

Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting initial animal-to-person spread. Now, person-to-person spread is occurring.