- What is coronavirus?
- How many people are infected with COVID-19?
- How do you get infected with COVID-19?
- How does the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread from person to person?
- Where do coronaviruses come from?
- What’s different about the delta variant of COVID-19?
- How long is a person infected with COVID-19 considered contagious?
- How soon after becoming infected with COVID-19 will I develop symptoms?
- Who’s most at risk for getting COVID-19?
- Have certain ethnic groups been harder hit by COVID-19?
- If I recover from a case of COVID-19, can I be infected again?
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in humans. They are called “corona” because of crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the common cold are examples of coronaviruses that cause illness in humans.
The new strain of coronavirus — COVID-19 — was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The virus has since spread to all continents.
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How many people are infected with COVID-19?
The number of people infected changes daily. As of this writing (10/11/2021), more than 196,910,000 people in the world have been infected. Over 4,850,000 people have died. Some 192 countries and territories on all continents have now reported cases of COVID-19.
How do you get infected with COVID-19?
COVID-19 enters your body through your mouth, nose or eyes (directly from the airborne droplets or from transfer of the virus from your hands to your face). The virus travels to the back of your nasal passages and mucous membrane in the back of your throat. It attaches to cells there, begins to multiply and moves into lung tissue. From there, the virus can spread to other body tissues.
How does the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread from person to person?
COVID-19 is likely spread:
- The virus travels in respiratory droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings or breathes near you (within 6 feet). You may be infected if you inhale these droplets.
- You can also get COVID-19 from close contact (touching, shaking hands) with an infected person and then touching your face.
- It’s considered possible to get COVID-19 after touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands. But it’s thought to be unlikely.
Where do coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are often found in bats, cats and camels. The viruses live in but do not infect the animals. Sometimes these viruses then spread to different animal species. The viruses may change (mutate) as they transfer to other species. Eventually, the virus can jump from animal species and begins to infect humans. In the case of COVID-19, the first people infected in Wuhan, China are thought to have contracted the virus at a food market that sold meat, fish and live animals. Although researchers don’t know exactly how people were infected, they already have evidence that the virus can be spread directly from person to person through close contact.
What’s different about the delta variant of COVID-19?
It’s normal for viruses to mutate — especially coronaviruses and influenza viruses. These mutations create new variants of the virus. Sometimes the variants are less contagious, less severe or have slightly different presenting symptoms. Unfortunately, the delta variant of COVID-19 (a strain called B.1.617.2) is more highly contagious and more likely to result in severe illness.
How long is a person infected with COVID-19 considered contagious?
If you’re infected with COVID-19 it can take several days to develop symptoms — but you are contagious during this time. You are no longer contagious 10 days after your symptoms began.
The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others is to:
- Stay 6 feet away from others whenever possible.
- Wear a cloth mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others.
- Wash your hands often. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces. Bring in outdoor air as much as possible.
- Stay self-isolated at home if you are feeling ill with symptoms that could be COVID-19 or have a positive test for COVID-19.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
How soon after becoming infected with COVID-19 will I develop symptoms?
The time between becoming infected and showing symptoms (incubation period) can range from 2 to 14 days. The average time before experiencing symptoms is five days. Symptoms can range in severity from very mild to severe. In about 80% of patients, COVID-19 causes only mild symptoms, although this may change as variants emerge.
Who’s most at risk for getting COVID-19?
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Persons at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 are:
- People who live in or have recently traveled to any area with ongoing active spread.
- People who have had close contact with a person who has a laboratory-confirmed or a suspected case of the COVID-19 virus. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
- People over age 60 who have pre-existing medical conditions or a weakened immune system.
Have certain ethnic groups been harder hit by COVID-19?
Yes. Many researchers have analyzed data across the country and in some large cities, looking at number of confirmed cases and deaths based on race and ethnicity and related factors. They found that African Americans and the Latino-Hispanic populations have disproportionately higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
Researchers suspect this might be because these ethnic groups tend to:
- Live in more crowded housing situations — living in densely populated areas and in multi-generational households — making social distancing practices difficult.
- Work in consumer-facing service industries and are more likely to use public transportation to get to work, putting them at risk for increased exposure to COVID-19.
- Be at increased risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19 because of higher rates of existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and heart, liver and kidney diseases.
- Be more likely to be uninsured or lack a consistent care source, which limits access to COVID-19 testing and treatment services.
Researchers are still studying other factors that may make ethnic groups more susceptible to negative COVID-19 outcomes, including:
- Possible differences in lung tissue.
- Socioeconomic status.
If I recover from a case of COVID-19, can I be infected again?
Reinfection with COVID-19 is rare, but has been reported.