What is COVID-19?

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that can cause infection in your nose, sinuses, and upper respiratory system. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous and cause common colds that aren’t a serious threat for healthy people. COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 which includes the viruses that cause severe disease like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Coronaviruses are spherical and have spikes protruding from their surface, giving the virus a crown like appearance. These spikes bind to human cells allowing the virus to gain entry. Coronaviruses are also known to evolve quickly and have a long history of shifting between animal species.

In early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization identified COVID-19 as a new, or novel, type of coronavirus. This outbreak spread quickly around the world, mainly through person to person contact, with infections ranging from mild to severe.

How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is highly contagious and is often spread undetected. This occurs because many people infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. In both cases, an infected person may not be adequately isolating, thus further spreading the infection. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. It may also be transmitted by touching a surface of an object that has the virus on it, and then by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Who is at risk?
Due to the novelty of COVID-19, anyone is at risk of acquiring the virus; however, there are certain factors that make a person more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on current guidance and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk.

What are the symptoms?
There have been a wide range of symptoms reported with COVID-19 illness, ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms often appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and can include:
• Cough
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Fever
• Chills
• Muscle pain
• Sore throat
• New loss of taste or smell
• Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 in North Carolina and to learn more, visit ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus or text COVIDNC to 898211. Call 2-1-1 (or 888-892-1162) for general questions or for help finding human services resources in your community.