What is Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus discovered in 2019. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The source of this virus is not yet known.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are some coronaviruses that commonly circulate in humans. These viruses cause mild to moderate respiratory illness, although rarely they can cause severe disease. COVID-19 is closely related to two other animal coronaviruses that have caused outbreaks in people—the SARS coronavirus and the MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome) coronavirus.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The CDC has updated its list to include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The CDC recommends that people seek medical attention immediately if they develop any of these emergency warning signs:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
The majority of those who become infected with COVID-19 will not require hospitalization or need treatments but can stay at home and focus on rest and hydration. For patients who are more severely ill, hospitals can provide a variety of supportive care options as well as some treatment options. As of December 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one antiviral drug (remdesivir) for specific patients. In addition, there are several monoclonal antibody treatments under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and on December 22nd, the FDA issued a EUA for oral antiviral treatment.
How can people protect themselves?
The virus is spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet or longer than 10 - 15 minutes). This transmission occurs through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can spread to people who are nearby. Every person has a role to play:
- Get vaccinated and boosted.
- Wear a mask when in public settings.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Practice social distancing by giving those outside of your household bubble 6 feet of space.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Staying away from work, school, or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
Who is at Higher Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19?
Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
- Older adults (65+)
- Individuals with compromised immune systems
- Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease - examples are asthma and COPD
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or health condition, it is important for you to take action to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease. Visit the CDC webpage "If You Are at Higher Risk".
What if I don’t have health insurance and I need screening or treatment for COVID-19?
- Check with your local community health center or hospital to see if fees for testing can be waived
- See if you’re eligible for Medi-Cal
- See if you’re eligible for Covered California