Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or
humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections
ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory
Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered
coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.
This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China,
in December 2019.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients
may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These
symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t
develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the
disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets
COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and
those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or
diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the
disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from
person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when
a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces
around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces,
then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe
in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is
why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.
WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue
to share updated findings. Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air? Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms? The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone
who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all
is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This
is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible
to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not
feel ill. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19
and will continue to share updated findings.
Can I catch COVID-19 from the feces of someone with the disease? The risk of catching COVID-19 from the feces of an infected person appears to be
low. While initial investigations suggest the virus may be present in feces in some
cases, spread through this route is not a main feature of the outbreak. WHO is assessing
ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share new findings.
Because this is a risk, however, it is another reason to clean hands regularly, after
using the bathroom and before eating.
Protection measures for everyone Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO
website and through your national and local public health authority. COVID-19 is still
affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people
who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe
for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them
with soap and water. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based
hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose
or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets,
including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands
can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter
your body and can make you sick.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means
covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the
people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing,
seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on
the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider
to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and
help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
- Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your
healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer
on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on
whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what
people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days)
areas where COVID-19 is spreading
- Follow the guidance outlined above. (Protection measures for everyone) Stay at home
if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny
nose, until you recover.
Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these
facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible
COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly
as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in
advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you
to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19
and other viruses.
The risk depends on where you live or where you have travelled recently. The risk
of infection is higher in areas where a number people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
More than 95% of all COVID-19 cases are occurring in China, with the majority of those
in Hubei Province. For people in most other parts of the world, your risk of getting
COVID-19 is currently low, however, it’s important to be aware of the situation and
preparedness efforts in your area.
WHO is working with health authorities in China and around the world to monitor and
respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.
If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled
from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and
is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low. However, it’s understandable
that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation. It’s a good idea to get
the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable
precautions. Your healthcare provider, your national public health authority and your
employer are all potential sources of accurate information on COVID-19 and whether
it is in your area. It is important to be informed of the situation where you live
and take appropriate measures to protect yourself. (See Protection measures for everyone).
If you are in an area where there is an outbreak of COVID-19 you need to take the
risk of infection seriously. Follow the advice issued by national and local health
authorities. Although for most people COVID-19 causes only mild illness, it can make
some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and those
with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems
or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable. (See Protection measures for persons who
are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading).
While we are still learning about how COVID-2019 affects people, older persons and
persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease,
or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.
No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections.
COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not
be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used
as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent
or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms.
People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to
supportive care. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation.
They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop
vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19. The most effective ways to protect
yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your
cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter
(3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For more information, see basic
protective measures against the new coronavirus.
No. The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS) are related to each other genetically, but they are different. SARS
is more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks
of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.
People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical
mask. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and
for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever. The use
of masks is crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone (at
home or in a health care facility).
WHO advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious
resources and mis-use of masks (see Advice on the use of masks). Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected
COVID-19 infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19
infection. A suspected COVID-19 infection is linked to travel in areas where cases
have been reported, or close contact with someone who has travelled in these areas
and has become ill.
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently
clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a
distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For
more information, see basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.
- Remember, a mask should only be used by health workers, care takers, and individuals
with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough.
- Before touching the mask, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
Take the mask and inspect it for tears or holes.
- Orient which side is the top side (where the metal strip is).
- Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the coloured side).
- Place the mask to your face. Pinch the metal strip or stiff edge of the mask so it
moulds to the shape of your nose.
- Pull down the mask’s bottom so it covers your mouth and your chin.
- After use, take off the mask; remove the elastic loops from behind the ears while
keeping the mask away from your face and clothes, to avoid touching potentially contaminated
surfaces of the mask.
- Discard the mask in a closed bin immediately after use.
- Perform hand hygiene after touching or discarding the mask – Use alcohol-based hand
rub or, if visibly soiled, wash your hands with soap and water.
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to
have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19
range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated
as more data become available.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Rarely, people
get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example,
SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels.
Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.
To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact
with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices
at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination
of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.
No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have
been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19.
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but
it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including
preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours
or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface,
temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill
the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based
hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and
the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved,
travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:
- Taking traditional herbal remedies
- Wearing multiple masks
- Taking self-medication such as antibiotics
In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early
to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your
recent travel history with your health care provider.