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Questions about COVID? We know COVID-19 is complex and information changes as scientists and health care professionals learn more about the virus. Here are the most up-to-date answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus. Human coronaviruses spread just like the flu or a cold:
- Through the air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it
- Occasionally, fecal contamination
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
Most people who have mild symptoms can recover at home without medical care. If you’d like to get tested for a diagnosis, contact your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment at a publicly accessible testing site.
If you do not want to get tested, it’s still important to stay home, isolate and avoid contact with others, rest, and drink fluids. If you feel worse, call your health care provider.
For severe symptoms (including a fever above 100°), call your health care provider. If you don’t have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital or urgent care to schedule an appointment.
If it’s an emergency, call 911.
Emergency warning signs can include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are the best tools we have to protect against COVID-19 and variants. All Pennsylvanians age 12 and older can receive a free COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of insurance or immigration status.
- Keep your distance from those you don’t live with and avoid crowds.
- Download the COVID Alert PA mobile app to get alerted if you’ve been near someone who has tested positive, and to alert others if you test positive.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands!
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Clean high-touch surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
- if you are sick — even if your symptoms are mild — stay home until you are feeling better.