COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2.
Generally, people spread the virus to others through respiratory droplets. You can help prevent the spread and lower the chances of getting infected by practicing good health habits such as washing your hands with soap and water, staying away from people you know are sick, and getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Individuals who are vaccinated are much less likely to get seriously ill with COVID-19. If you have COVID-19, you should self-isolate and quarantine per the CDC guidelines.
Symptoms usually start 4 or 5 days after a person is infected with the virus. But in some people, it can take up to 2 weeks for symptoms to appear. Some people never show symptoms at all. Symptoms include:
Most people have mild cold symptoms which will improve within a few days to weeks. A small number of people get very sick and may need to be hospitalized. Some people continue to have symptoms for weeks or months.
Most people with mild COVID-19 can rest at home until they get better. “Mild” means you might have symptoms like fever, cough, or other cold symptoms, but you do not have trouble breathing.
What you can do at home:
Doctors recommend treatment with an “antiviral” called nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (brand name: Paxlovid) for people who are at high risk for getting seriously ill, even if their symptoms are mild. This includes:
You will need to speak with your doctor before starting this treatment.
Depending on your age, health problems, and whether you have been vaccinated, some people are at higher risk of COVID-19 leading to serious problems like pneumonia. Some people will need to be hospitalized so they can be monitored and receive treatments such as extra oxygen, steroids, or medicine to prevent blood clots.