Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

What is coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 (short for coronavirus disease 2019), has already spread worldwide in early 2020. SARS-CoV-2, the virus itself (rather than the disease) is the most recently discovered strain in a family of viruses that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).1

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is updating its coronavirus webpage with new information daily,2 SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. By March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.3 By March 13th, 2020 President Trump had declared the outbreak a national emergency for the U.S.

On February 24, 2021, President Biden released a statement declaring the continuation of the global pandemic as a national emergency.4

Source: Getty Images

What are the symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 may be mild (similar to those of the common cold or seasonal flu) or severe. These symptoms may occur within 2–14 days after exposure to the virus.5

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills

After 14 days, the more severe symptoms of COVID-19 may begin to appear. These are different from the symptoms of the common cold or flu, and may include:

  • Muscle Pain
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases as you get older. In the most serious cases, coronavirus can lead to pneumonia and even acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which may be the leading cause of death in immunocompromised or older patients.

The emergency warning signs of COVID-19 that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Having a hard time breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the chest that does not go away
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Being unable to stay awake or wake up
  • Confusion

If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19, please call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

How does coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread?

According to the CDC, COVID-19 seems to spread person-to-person, and can be transmitted in one of three ways: droplet (breathing in respiratory droplets of an infected person who is within 6 feet), airborne (breathing in smaller respiratory droplets of an infected person that tends to stay suspended in the air for a long time), or least commonly through direct contact (touch). 8 Most infections are spread through direct contact with an infected person or being within 6 feet of a person who coughs or sneezes could be enough to spread COVID-19. The droplets, or aerosols, released into the environment from coughing or sneezing can linger in the air for up to 3 hours. Getting infected by touching contaminated surfaces is not considered a common way COVID-19 is spread.9

How contagious is coronavirus?

The coronavirus is very contagious. Many people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 may not know it until 2–14 days have passed, and symptoms have begun to worsen. By coming into contact with friends, coworkers, and family members, they can unknowingly spread the virus.

Who is at high risk?

There is currently limited information about the exact risk factors associated with the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC, those who are at high risk include anyone who:

  • Is 65 years old or older
  • lives in a nursing home or elder care facility
  • receives cancer treatment that weakens the immune system, such as chemotherapy
  • Is diagnosed with the following conditions: -Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) 10 -Chronic Lung Disease (CLD) such as moderate to severe asthma or Cystic Fibrosis (CF) -serious heart conditions -severely obese (BMI > 40) -dementia or Alzheimer’s -liver disease -diabetes -Down syndrome -Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia -heart conditions such as heart failure or hypertension pregnant or expecting -overweight or obese
  • Is immunocompromised either due to an existing condition, such as HIV, or because they have received a transplant

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.