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What is Coronavirus?

Updated on April 10, 2020

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Updated April 10, 2020

Coronavirus FAQ

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Summary: The novel coronavirus outbreak of respiratory disease was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and is now a pandemic that has been detected worldwide. Officially, the virus has been named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease the virus causes is known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How does coronavirus spread?

Since COVID-19 is a new disease, the CDC is still learning how it spreads. Currently, the novel coronavirus is thought to be spread primarily through person-to-person contact, according to the CDC. This contact includes:

  • Close contact between people (within approximately 6 feet)
  • Respiratory droplets resulting from coughs, saliva, or sneezes

The respiratory droplets may land in the noses or mouths of nearby people, or may be inhaled into the lungs. COVID-19 may also spread through contact with infected objects or surfaces.

The current understanding of how COVID-19 spreads is based on the spread of similar coronaviruses, which are a family of viruses common across different species of animals.

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus

According to the CDC, reported signs and symptoms of the new coronavirus disease may include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing (severe cases)

Reported cases of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. Currently, the CDC believes that the symptoms of coronavirus may appear between 1 to 14 days after exposure.

The CDC advises that you should immediately seek medical attention if you begin to exhibit emergency warning signs for COVID-19. According to the CDC, these warning signs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Persistent pressure or pain in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Getting care for coronavirus

If you’re experiencing emergency warning signs, get medical attention right away.

If you think you have symptoms, it’s important to call your medical provider. Many doctors now cover telemedicine care, which helps keep you and others safe by decreasing exposure.

Calling your medical provider will also help them direct you to the right care while taking precautions. According to the CDC, most people experiencing coronavirus symptoms are able to recover at home without medical care.

What can you do to protect yourself and family members?

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19, and there are no medications approved for treating it. The best way for you to prevent illness from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to this virus.

Here are steps you can take that may help yourself and others stay healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak and current flu season:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you are sick, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice social distancing by placing significant distance between yourself and other people.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with tissue, then dispose of the tissue in the trash and immediately wash your hands.
  • Clean surfaces or objects that are frequently touched daily in order to disinfect them.
  • As of April 3, the CDC now recommends wearing homemade face masks for prevention in public settings, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Those who are at higher risk of a more severe coronavirus illness may include older adults as well as people with significant underlying chronic medical conditions, according to the CDC.

At-risk people may want to consider staying home, avoiding crowds, practicing social distancing, keeping away from those who are sick, and avoiding non-essential air travel and cruise travel .

How can you help slow down the spread of coronavirus?

According to the CDC, people who live in places with ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 are at an elevated risk of exposure, with the amount of risk depending on the location.

Here are ways that you can help to slow down the spread of coronavirus:

  • Don’t go into public spaces if you feel sick. Consider working from home if possible.
  • The CDC now recommends that the general population wear non-medical masks—meaning fabric that covers one’s face and nose coverings—when they must leave their homes to go to places like the grocery store.
  • Avoid all nonessential travel and shopping. Do not gather in large social groups.
  • Have a several-week to month-long supply of food, water, and essential medications and health supplies so you can be prepared to stay home for a period of time.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants, bars, or food courts; consider drive-through, pickup, or delivery options instead.
  • Do not visit nursing homes, or long-term care or retirement facilities.
  • Learn more about how your health insurance plan provides coverage for coronavirus.
  • Find out about Medicare’s coverage of coronavirus testing.

To learn more about coronavirus, visit eHealth’s hub for coronavirus updates and resources.

Since the novel coronavirus is an emerging disease, the situation continues to evolve rapidly. This page will be updated as new information becomes available.

Image source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Our mission at e-Health is to support the health and well-being of individuals and small-business. For additional coronavirus advice, health tips, and information on coverage, please visit eHealth.com

For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

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