Last updated May 11, 2021.
Things to remember
It is normal to be scared, distressed, or angry when you hear about a disease outbreak. Be careful not to turn fear and anger towards people who have become sick. Ask yourself:
- Would I think or do the same thing if this was a different disease, like the flu?
- Does what I’m doing make people safer or does it create more fear or harm?
The risk of COVID-19 is not at all connected with race, ethnicity, or nationality. Blaming others will not help fight the illness. Seeking and sharing accurate information will.
Recognize signs of stress in yourself. Identify what you are afraid of. Figure out if what you fear is something that you can address right now. If not, know what activities help you release energy from stress and fear, such as physical activity, listening to music, or talking with someone you trust. Do something that puts you in a positive mood.
How COVID-19 spreads
COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouths. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are within 6 feet of the infected person are most likely to get infected. This is similar to how flu and other respiratory viruses spread.
COVID-19 usually spreads in three main ways:
- Breathing in air near an infected person who is breathing out small droplets and particles that contain the virus. Sometimes smaller respiratory droplets can remain in the air for up to several hours and travel farther than 6 feet. This type of exposure can occur indoors in spaces with poor ventilation.
- Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
- Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.
People at increased risk of infection are:
- People who have been to areas where widespread community transmission is occurring.
- People who spent time in a poorly ventilated area with someone who has COVID-19.
- People who spent time in large groups or crowded areas.
- People who had direct close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Symptoms of COVID-19
- Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- Illness can be severe and require hospitalization, but most individuals recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids, and taking pain and fever-reducing medications.
- Some people who are not hospitalized, but are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself from getting COVID-19, you can:
- Get vaccinated.
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- Stay 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with you.
- Wash your hands.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and improve ventilation.
If you are sick
It is important to call ahead before going to see a doctor or emergency room to prevent the spread of illness. Tell them your symptoms and that you suspect you were exposed to someone with COVID-19.