What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (also called COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that usually happens among us and causes mild illness, like the common cold.
What is happening with COVID-19 in the United States?
All states in the United States are reporting cases of COVID-19, and all states are reporting community spread of the disease. Community spread of COVID-19 is when people in a community become infected with the virus but don’t know how or where they were infected.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Sustainable means it goes from person to person without stopping. Information suggests that this virus is spreading more rapidly than the flu.
The risk of getting COVID-19 for people living in the U.S. increases for those who:
- Live in places where there is ongoing community spread.
- Have close contact with people with COVID-19.
- Travel to places where community spread is happening.
- Are health care providers caring for patients with COVID-19.
The risk of getting very sick is higher for:
- People with:
- Serious heart conditions
- Lung disease and moderate to severe asthma
- Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- Liver disease
- Severe obesity
- A lower immune system, like those getting cancer treatment and smokers
- Older adults
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider.
COVID-19 and pregnancy
At this time, we have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19. However, more studies are being published and we are learning more each day. Public health and medical groups are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and providing regular updates. The available information at this moment suggests pregnant women may have the same risk as other non-pregnant adults.
If you are pregnant are you at a higher risk of getting COVID-19?
We still don’t know:
- If pregnant women have a higher chance of getting COVID-19 compared to the rest of the general population.
- If pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 than the rest of the population.
We do know:
- During pregnancy, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Having a lowered immune system may make you more likely to get sick with viruses like coronavirus.
- Illnesses like the flu and other viruses from the same family as COVID-19 have caused pregnant women to become very sick and some required hospitalization.
Protect yourself from getting COVID-19. Stay at home as much as you can, wash your hands often and avoid contact with people who are sick.
Can you give COVID-19 to your baby during pregnancy?
As of now it’s not clear if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, data had suggested that babies born to moms with the virus did not test positive for COVID-19. Recent data published in the Journal of American Medical Association suggest that transmission during pregnancy may be possible. As more studies get published, we will update this information.
After birth, a newborn can be infected after being in close contact with an infected person, including the baby’s mom or other caregivers. A small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth. However, it is not clear if these babies got the virus before, during or after birth.
A small number of other problems, such as preterm birth, have been reported in babies born to mothers who tested positive for the virus late in their pregnancy. We don’t know if these problems were related to the virus.
What complications can I or my baby have if I get COVID-19 during pregnancy?
According to the CDC:
- Pregnant women can get sicker and require hospital care when they have certain other types of respiratory illnesses, like the flu and another coronavirus illness called severe acute respiratory syndrome (also called SARS).
- Pregnancy loss (miscarriage, stillbirth and other conditions that can cause a pregnancy to end before or during birth) have occurred with other coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We don’t know if COVID-19 can cause pregnancy loss.
- It’s not certain if the risk of preterm labor and premature birth increases with COVID-19 like it does with the flu. Based on limited reports, there have been some premature births among moms with COVID-19. It is not clear if that is related to the mother being infected.
- If you have a high fever during pregnancy, the risk for certain birth defects can increase.
- Based on other respiratory illnesses, like the flu and other coronaviruses, pregnant women may be at risk of getting severe illness and even death compared to the rest of the population.
What should you do if you have COVID-19 and you are in labor?
If you are in labor and you have confirmed COVID-19 or you think you have COVID-19, call the hospital or medical facility before you go. This way, the staff can take proper infection control precautions to protect your baby and other people from getting the infection.
It is likely that you will only be allowed one support person in the delivery room with you. Check what specific rules your hospital or birth center has put into place.
If you have COVID-19, how can a hospital protect your baby after birth?
If you have COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed) your baby will be tested for COVID-19, whether he has signs of infection or not.
CDC recommends that hospitals and other medical facilities consider having moms with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 stay at least 6 feet apart or in a separate room away from their new baby after giving birth until the risk of spreading the infection is over. Your providers can talk to you about the risks and benefits of this decision. Providers, infection control specialists and public health experts can work together to determine when to end this temporary separation.
If you and your baby are not separated, you can reduce the chances of your baby getting infected by washing your hands thoroughly and wearing a facemask before touching your baby. Your providers may help with other precautions, like keeping a curtain between you and your baby.
Should you breastfeed your baby if you have COVID-19?
So far, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. Experts think that the infection spreads mainly through small liquid droplets from the nose or mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says if you have COVID-19 you may pump your milk and a healthy caregiver can feed your breast milk to your baby. A mom with COVID-19 who wants to breastfeed directly needs to:
- Use a cloth (or facemask, if available) to cover her face and nose
- Wash her hands and breast thoroughly before and after touching her baby
- Constantly clean the surfaces she touches
Are children and babies more likely to get COVID-19 than adults?
Recent data shows that compared to adults, babies and children generally have less severe COVID-19 symptoms. However, among babies and children, babies less than one year old are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Most children with COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms. Based on limited data, the risk of serious problems in children with COVID-19 appears to be low at this time. Children with certain medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions or issues with their immune systems, might be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Recent data shows that many children with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) have had the virus that causes COVID-19 or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or digestive tract.
We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. The illness can be serious or even deadly, but most children who have had MIS-C have gotten better. The signs and symptoms of MIS-C include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash and feeling tired.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild symptoms to severe illness. Deaths have been reported from confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after being infected:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Loss of smell or taste
Take your temperature if symptoms develop. Get immediate medical care if you have any of these warning signs or any other symptoms that are severe or concerning:
- Trouble breathing
- Constant pain or pressure in the chest
- If you start feeling confused
- If you can’t stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
See the coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms self-checker from the CDC. You may ask your provider to test you for COVID-19 but there is no known treatment for the virus.
What can you do if you get infected with COVID-19?
If you have a fever or cough, you may have COVID-19. Call your health care provider and ask what you should do.
Monitor your symptoms. If you have any of the following signs, get medical care right away:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Constant pain or pressure in the chest
- If you start feeling confused
- Bluish lips or face
- You can’t stay awake
According to the CDC, most people have mild illness and may be able to recover at home. If you have mild symptoms, follow these recommendations to care for yourself and avoid spreading the disease to others:
- Stay home except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas except if you are seeking medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas and avoid using public transportation or taxis (including ride-shares).
- Take care of yourself. Get rest and drink liquids. Ask your health care provider if you should take over-the-counter medicines, which may help you feel better.
- Stay in touch with your provider. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing or have any other emergency warning signs.
- Call the hospital or medical office before you show up. Be sure to tell the staff that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed. Put on a facemask before you enter the facility.
- Stay separate from others in your home. Stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets you live with. This is called isolation. Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Wear a cloth facemask to cover your nose and mouth or a facemask when you are around other people, even at home. CDC says you may use a scarf or a bandana to cover your nose and mouth if a facemask is not available. You don’t need to wear the cloth face covering if you are alone.
- Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds right after coughing or sneezing. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 20 seconds for your hands to dry.
- Don’t share personal household items. Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly. Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
- Clean and disinfect objects in your isolation area every day. This includesareas you frequently touch and in the bathroom you use. Your caregiver should clean other parts of the house outside of your isolation area. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, cabinet handles, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. If your caregiver needs to clean and disinfect your bedroom or bathroom, they should wear a mask and disposable gloves. See CDC’s complete disinfection guide for more information.
If it’s been confirmed that you have COVID-19, stay under home isolation and follow precautions until the risk of passing the illness to others is thought to be low. Talk to your provider about when you should stop home isolation and taking precautions.
Seek medical attention right away if your symptoms are getting worse. If you are having difficulty breathing or your symptoms are worsening, don’t wait to get medical care. If you need to call 911, notify them that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 spread?
We are still learning about how COVID-19 spreads.
- Mainly from person to person. Between close contact (about 6 feet or less away) with someone infected. The virus travels from person to person through respiratory droplets when the infected person coughs or sneezes.
- Possibly by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or possibly your eyes.
While we are still learning more about this virus, at this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. It does seem that the virus can spread from people to animals in some situations, according to the CDC.
According to the CDC, many people without symptoms are spreading the virus. Some are “asymptomatic,” meaning they have the virus but don’t have symptoms. Others are “pre-symptomatic,” which means they have the virus but show no symptoms for a while, but later they develop symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people who are close to each other while speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people do not have symptoms.
How can you prevent the spread of COVID-19?
At the moment, there’s no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent getting infected is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can follow the same steps you take to prevent getting sick with a cold or the flu to protect yourself from COVID-19. This includes:
- Stay at home as much as you can.
- Practice social distancing. When out with others, keep at least 6 feet apart (two arms’ lengths) from others. Do not gather in groups and stay away from crowded places. Keeping away from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Remember, people without symptoms may be spreading the virus.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching anyone. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 20 seconds for your hands to dry.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch regularly using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
- When around others, use a cloth face cover or a facemask to protect your nose and mouth. Everyone needs to wear a face covering, except babies under 2 years old or anyone who has trouble breathing.
See CDC’s information on how to create homemade cloth face covering.
What do you need to know about traveling?
- CDC recommends avoiding travel by cruise ship, especially if you have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.
- Check CDC travel notices for information about traveling.
Last reviewed May 21, 2020