A novel coronavirus known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread globally since late December 2019.
The virus causes a disease known as COVID-19, which is responsible for millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
COVID-19 is similar to other diseases that come from coronaviruses: SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and the common cold. What warning signs should you look for?
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What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 can appear anywhere from two days to two weeks after exposure to SARS-CoV-2, according to the latest information from public health authorities.
The most common symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can become life-threatening. It’s also possible for asymptomatic people to spread COVID-19.
COVID-19 also can cause complications like pneumonia.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are like other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza (flu) or the common cold. Because of that, testing is needed to definitively diagnose it.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been in contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, talk to your doctor about getting tested.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some state health departments also have validated tests to diagnose COVID-19.
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Am I at Risk for Infection?
You are at greatest risk for infection if you have been in close contact — within 6 feet — of someone already infected.
The virus is primarily believed to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. If an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, he or she releases droplets into the air. Those droplets can then get into the eyes, nose, or mouth of someone nearby, infecting that person.
The disease also can spread if a person touches an infected surface and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this method of spread is less common than droplets.
You can help lower your risk by following hygiene habits, including:
- Washing your hands regularly: Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing, before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching common surfaces.
- Sanitizing commonly used surfaces like tables, countertops, and more
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough
- Avoiding contact with people who are infected
- Practicing social distancing by avoiding crowded places like grocery stores and pharmacies as much as possible
- Wearing a cloth facemask when around people who are not from your own household
Contact your health care provider immediately if you have had close contact with someone who is infected and are showing symptoms yourself.
About Infectious Diseases
If you have a disease caused by bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus, the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases can help. We have specialty units for prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDs, postsurgical and transplant infections, and illnesses caused by international travel. Our faculty research infectious diseases and participate in clinical trials to learn more and develop better treatment and prevention methods.