A novel coronavirus, previously designated 2019-nCoV, was identified as the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in the Hubei Province of China, at the end of 2019. It subsequently spread throughout China and elsewhere, becoming a global health emergency. In February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the disease COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020.
The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but now it seems to be spreading from person to person. It is important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some diseases are highly contagious (like measles), while other diseases are less so. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading between people.
COVID-19 symptoms can be mild to severe and include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. There is no vaccine currently available for COVID-19. There is also no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you to do so. If you’re planning to travel internationally, first check the CDC and WHO websites for updates and advice. Also look for any health advisories that may be in place where you plan to travel.
WHO and CDC recommend that you take the usual precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Clean surfaces you often touch.
- Stay home from work, school and public areas if you are sick.
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