COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Because it is a new virus, scientists are learning more each day. Although most people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms, COVID-19 can also cause severe illness and even death. Some groups, including older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions, are at increased risk of severe illness.
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, “CO” stands for corona, “VI” for virus, and ”D” for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV.”
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within about 6 feet). People who are infected but do not show symptoms can also spread the virus to others. Cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported but are rare. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.
COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person. How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary. The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread more efficiently than influenza but not as efficiently as measles, which is among the most contagious viruses known to affect people.
For more information about how COVID-19 spreads, visit the How COVID-19 Spreads page to learn how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect yourself.
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions. For information on community spread in your area, please visit your local health department’s website.
Important Ways to Slow the Spread
Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others.
Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
In healthcare settings across the United States, donated blood is a lifesaving, essential part of caring for patients. The need for donated blood is constant, and blood centers are open and in urgent need of donations. CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19. CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe. Examples of these recommendations include spacing donor chairs 6 feet apart, thoroughly adhering to environmental cleaning practices, and encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time.
People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms – from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. If you have fever, cough, or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19.
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
Inability to wake or stay awake
Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
Yes. It is possible to test positive for flu (as well as other respiratory infections) and COVID-19 at the same time. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce your chances of getting flu. See Prevent Seasonal Flu for more information.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers.
Contact lens wearers should continue to practice safe contact lens wear and care hygiene habits to help prevent against transmission of any contact lens-related infections, such as always washing hands with soap and water before handling lenses.
People who are healthy can continue to wear and care for their contact lenses as prescribed by their eye care professional.
Continue taking care of your health and wellness
Continue your medications, and do not change your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
Continue to manage your disease the way your healthcare provider has told you.
Have at least a 2-week supply of all prescription and non-prescription medications.
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether your vaccinations and other preventative services are up to date.
Call your healthcare provider
if you have any concerns about your medical conditions, or if you get sick.
to find out about different ways you can connect with your healthcare provider for chronic disease management or other conditions.
If you must visit in-person, protect yourself and others.
Do not delay getting emergency care for your health problems or any underlying medical condition that requires immediate attention.
If you need emergency help, call 911.
Emergency departments have infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care for your medical condition.
Continue to practice everyday prevention. Wash your hands often, avoid close contact, wear a mask, cover coughs and sneezes, and clean frequently touched surfaces often.
When picking up medicines, use drive-thru windows, curbside services (prescriptions brought to you in your car), mail-order, or other delivery services.
Coronaviruses are thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products, or packaging. However, it may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Clean frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces and objects by removing contaminants and may weaken or damage some of the virus particles, which decreases risk of infection from surfaces. You may choose to also disinfect depending on certain conditions or everyday practices required by your home. To disinfect, most common Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfect ants will work. See CDC’s recommendations for household cleaning and disinfection.
The best way to protect yourself and others is to quarantine by staying home for 14 days if you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Check your local health department’s website for information about options in your area to possibly shorten this quarantine period.
Be alert for symptoms of COVID-19.
If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
You may NOT need to quarantine if:
You have been fully vaccinated and have no symptoms
You were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last three months and don’t develop any new symptoms
Children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can get sick with COVID-19. Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all (“asymptomatic”). Fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults. Babies younger than 1 and children with certain underlying medical conditions may be more likely to have serious illness from COVID-19. Some children have developed a rare but serious disease that is linked to COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
For more information for parents or caregivers of children, see Children and Teens and the COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit.
In general, children 2 years and older should wear a mask. However, CDC recognizes that wearing masks may not be possible in every situation or for some people. Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some children, such as children with certain disabilities, including cognitive, intellectual, developmental, sensory and behavioral disorders. Learn more about what you should do if your child or you cannot wear masks in certain situations and special considerations for children who may have difficulties with techniques for improved fit and filtration.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a serious condition associated with COVID-19 where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.
Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19. To protect those who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, you may consider taking these extra precautions.
Separate your child from others in your household who have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Carefully consider who might be best to provide childcare if you are unable to care for your child (for example, you are not able to stay with your child while childcare or school is closed).
Limit your child’s contact with other people if someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (such as an older adult or someone with an underlying medical condition).
Postpone visits or trips to see grandparents, older family members and family members who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Consider connecting virtually or by writing letters.
Children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness compared to children without underlying medical conditions. Current evidence on which underlying medical conditions in children are associated with increased risk is limited. Children with the following conditions might be at increased risk for severe illness: obesity, medical complexity, severe genetic disorders, severe neurologic disorders, inherited metabolic disorders, sickle cell disease, congenital (since birth) heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma and other chronic lung disease, and immunosuppression due to malignancy or immune-weakening medications. In addition to following the recommendations to prevent getting sick, families can take steps recommended for children with underlying conditions.
Consider identifying potential alternative caregivers, in case you or other regular caregivers become sick and are unable to care for your child. If possible, these alternative caregivers should not be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. For more information, see Sick Parents and Caregivers. Make sure these caregivers take extra precautions if your child has a disability.
If your child receives any support care services in the home, such as services from personal care attendants, direct support professionals, or therapists, make plans for what you will do if your child’s direct care providers or anyone in your family gets sick. You can review CDC’s recommendations for Direct Service Providers.
Not everyone needs to be tested. Your infant or child may need to be tested for COVID-19 if your child:
Has symptoms of COVID-19, or
Had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or
Took part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19, because they could not stay at least 6 feet apart as needed (such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in a crowded or poorly ventilated indoor setting), or
Was asked or referred to get testing by their state, tribal, localexternal icon, or territorial health department or healthcare provider.
If your child is tested because they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, keep your child home until they can safely end isolation or quarantine and follow the advice of your healthcare provider or a public health professional. If your child has recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months and does not have symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to be retested for up to 3 months from their last positive test result.
Yes. At-home testing and collection allow you to collect a specimen at home and either send it to a testing facility or preform the test at home.
You and your healthcare provider might consider either an at-home collection kit or an at-home test if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or if you can’t get testing at a local healthcare facility.
The following should be tested for current infection:
People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
Most people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with confirmed COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.
People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
People who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.
People who have been asked or referred to get tested by their healthcare provider, or state, tribal, localexternal icon, or territorial health department.
CDC recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection. If you get tested because you have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus, you should stay away from others pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.
A viral test checks specimens from your nose or your mouth to find out if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Contact your healthcare provider or visit your state, tribal, localexternal icon, and territorial health department’s website to find the latest local information on testing. The type of viral COVID-19 tests offered differ by location. You and your healthcare provider might also consider either an at-home collection kit or an at-home test if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and if you are not able to be tested by a healthcare provider or public health official.
While waiting for test results pdf icon[2 pages, 224KB], you should self-quarantine at home and stay away from others, including those living in your household. If your test results are positive, isolate yourself. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and are not tested, it is still important to stay home. For more information, visit What to Do if You Are Sick and When to Quarantine.
Antibody tests for COVID-19 are available through healthcare providers and laboratories. Check with your healthcare provider to see if they offer antibody tests and whether you should get one.
A positive test result shows you might have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there is a chance a positive result means that you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.
Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might provide some protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last. Confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection have been reported, but remain rare.
You should continue to protect yourself and others since you could get infected with the virus again.
If you test negative, you might not have ever had COVID-19. Talk with your healthcare provider about your test result and the type of test you took to understand what your result means.
Regardless of whether you test positive or negative, the results do not confirm whether or not you are able to spread the virus that causes COVID-19. Until we know more, continue to take steps to protect yourself and others.
Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others. See Testing for Current Infection for more information.