What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, known as SARS-CoV-2, is the virus strain identified in January that causes COVID-19, coronavirus disease, and is spreading from person to person. While the virus has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people, about 80% of cases are relatively mild.
How does this new coronavirus spread?
Its main mode of spreading is respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can land in the mouth or nose or be inhaled into the lungs of nearby people (within 6 feet). It may be possible for a person to be infected by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
How severe is COVID-19?
Most coronavirus illnesses are mild with fever and cough. The vast majority of people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection don’t require hospital care. A much smaller percentage of people get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia. Elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk.
Globally,3.4% of reported COVID-19 patients had died as of March 3, leading experts to say it may be 34 times more fatal than the seasonal flu. However, with many mild cases not reported, the percentage may be lower.
About 99%* of people who have the virus will get sick. On average, symptoms appear five to six days after infection, but may appear as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.
If you show early signs of illness
If you have symptoms and were exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient, call both your health care provider and, in King County, the Novel Coronavirus Call Center, 206-477-3977. You can also call the state coronavirus hotline at 800-525-0127, although this number has high traffic and may be temporarily unavailable.
If you have symptoms but don’t know if you were exposed, don’t head straight to the emergency room or urgent care, where you might infect others. Call your doctor about whether, when and where you should be evaluated.