About COVID-19

What is Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals and humans. This novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a newly discovered coronavirus that has not been previously detected in animals or humans. 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: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. Shortness of breath has also been changed to "shortness of breath or difficulty breathing." The full list now is:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • 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?

From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization. For patients who are more severely ill, hospitals can provide supportive care. We are continuing to learn more about this novel coronavirus and treatment may change over time. 

How is it decided whether a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 can self-isolate at home or must be confined to a hospital or elsewhere?

Local health departments, in partnership with the California Department of Public Health and the CDC, and making determinations on whether a person ill with COVID-19 requires hospitalization or if home isolation is appropriate. That decision may be based on multiple factors including severity of illness, need for testing, and appropriateness of home for isolation purposes.

How can people protect themselves?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This occurs through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Every person has a role to play. So much of protecting yourself and your family comes down to common sense:

  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • 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
  • Smokers
  • Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • 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 actions 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?