COVID-19: Novel Coronavirus Disease

This webpage provides very basic facts about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease.

Because health experts are still learning about COVID-19 and new information is released on a frequent basis, please visit the following websites for the latest details and guidance:

What are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a variety of animal species. Bats, birds, camels, cats, and other animals are hosts to coronaviruses. They are also common causes of infection in people.

In humans, coronaviruses can cause mild to severe illness. For example, coronaviruses are one of the virus types that cause the common cold. A cold is generally a mild infection (though you may feel miserable while it lasts). In contrast, with COVID-19, the novel coronavirus causes severe illness and is responsible for more than two-thousand deaths.

For additional details, read the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Novel Coronavirus (NCoV-2019) FAQ.

What is a Novel Coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is a newly identified virus that infects and causes illness in animals or people. The problem with any novel virus is the potential to spread through populations with little to no immunity to the virus.

Examples of other novel coronavirus outbreaks include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV).

For additional details, read the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Novel Coronavirus (NCoV-2019) FAQ.

How is the COVID-19 Virus Spread Between People?

Health experts are still learning how the COVID-19 virus is spread. Based on other coronaviruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to spread through close contact (defined as about 6 feet) with an infected person.

Similar to the flu, when an infected person coughs or sneezes droplets from their respiratory tract enter the air. These virus-filled droplets can enter the mouths or noses of individuals close by or land on nearby objects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), better known coronaviruses are spread by:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
  • Rarely, fecal contamination

It's possible the COVID-19 virus may be spread by infected individuals before they have symptoms. The incubation period for COVID-19 (the time period between getting infected and when symptoms develop) is believed to be 14 days.

For additional details, read the CDC's How COVID-19 Spreads.

What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 infection has been confirmed in people who have had no symptoms to mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms are believed to develop 2-14 days after becoming infected with the virus.

For additional details, read the CDC's COVID-19 Symptoms.

What Should I Do if I Develop COVID-19 Symptoms?

The CDC recommends:

Travelers Recently Returning from China or Outside the U.S.

If you have travelled outside the U.S. and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing,within 14 days after traveling you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Anyone with COVID-19 Symptoms

To help prevent spreading COVID-19:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people in your home.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • Wear a facemask.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid sharing household items.
  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with pets and other animals.

For additional details read the CDC's:

What Can I Do to Stay Healthy and Prevent COVID-19 Infection?

The CDC recommends these tips for:

What You Should Do
  • Take everyday precautions used to prevent the flu and other respiratory diseases.
    • Avoid close contact with sick people.
    • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
    • Stay home if you are sick.
    • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
    • If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

For additional details, read the CDC's 2019-nCoV: What the Public Should Do.