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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that affect humans and animals. They include those that cause the common cold. A new, or novel, coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The disease it causes has been named COVID-19.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

How it spreads

Early infections in Wuhan, China were linked to an animal market. Now the virus is spreading from person to person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. 

Scientists think the main way COVID-19 spreadis is through close person-to-person contact, within 6 feet, with someone infected with the virus. The virus seems to be spreading easily in the community of affected areas. Investigations are ongoing to learn more about how it spreads. The latest updates are on the CDC’s webpage.


Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reported mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

How to protect yourself

Practice everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It should be at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces often.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.