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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What You Should Know

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

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).
  • 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.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community ("community spread") in some affected geographic areas.

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Symptoms

Watch for Symptoms

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Call your doctor if you...
Develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19

OR

Have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

Prevention & Treatment

Prevention

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC's recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

For information about handwashing, see CDC's Handwashing website.

For information specific to healthcare, see CDC's Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

Treatment

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

See Interim Guidance for Healthcare Professionals for information on persons under investigation.

Testing

CDC Tests for COVID-19

CDC has developed a new laboratory test kit for use in testing patient specimens for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. The test kit is called the "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel." It is intended for use with the Applied Biosystems 7500 Fast DX Real-Time PCR Instrument with SDS 1.4 software. This test is intended for use with upper and lower respiratory specimens collected from persons who meet CDC criteria for COVID-19 testing. CDC's test kit is intended for use by laboratories designated by CDC as qualified, and in the United States, certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) to perform high complexity tests. The test kits also will be shipped to qualified international laboratories, such as World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza Surveillance Response System (GISRS) laboratories. The test will not be available in U.S. hospitals or other primary care settings. The kits will be distributed through the International Reagent Resource (IRR).

On Monday, February 3, 2020, CDC submitted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) package to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to expedite FDA permitted use of the CDC diagnostic panel in the United States. The EUA process enables FDA to consider and authorize the use of unapproved, but potentially life-saving medical or diagnostic products during a public health emergency. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declared the SARS-CoV-2 virus a U.S. public health emergency on Friday, January 31, 2020. FDA issued the EUA on February 4, 2020. IRR began distribution of the test kits to states, but shortly thereafter performance issues were identified related to a problem in the manufacturing of one of the reagents which led to laboratories not being able to verify the test performance. CDC is remanufacturing the reagents with more robust quality control measures. New tests will be distributed once this issue has been addressed. CDC continues to perform initial and confirmatory testing.

Serology Test for COVID-19

CDC is working to develop a new laboratory test to assist with efforts to determine how much of the U.S. population has been exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.

The serology test will look for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins made in response to infections. Antibodies can be found in the blood and in other tissues of those who are tested after infection. The antibodies detected by this test indicate that a person had an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, whether symptoms developed from infection or the infection was asymptomatic. Antibody test results are important in detecting infections with few or no symptoms.

Initial work to develop a serology test for SARS-CoV-2 is underway at CDC. In order to develop the test, CDC needs blood samples from people who had COVID-19 at least 21 days after their symptoms first started. Researchers are currently working to develop the basic parameters for the test, which will be refined as more samples become available. Once the test is developed, CDC will need additional samples to evaluate whether the test works as intended.

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