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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Your Questions Answered

Reviewed by: Karen A. Ravin, MD

Experts are still learning about the coronavirus (COVID-19). With new information coming out every day, it can feel overwhelming at times. Here are answers to some questions you may have.

How Does Coronavirus (COVID-19) Spread?

People can catch coronavirus from others who have the virus. This happens when an infected person sneezes or coughs, sending tiny droplets into the air. These can land in the nose, mouth, or eyes of someone nearby, or be breathed in.

People also can get infected if they touch an infected droplet on a surface and then touch their own nose, mouth, or eyes.

Experts are looking at whether the virus can spread through stool (poop).

Can Someone Who's Infected Spread Coronavirus (COVID-19) if They Don't Have Symptoms?

The virus spreads most easily when an infected person has symptoms. But some spread might be possible before symptoms start. It can take 2–14 days after someone is exposed to the virus for symptoms to show up.

Is My Child at Risk for Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Experts are still learning about coronavirus, but it seems to usually cause a milder illness in children than in adults or older people. Most people who have died from coronavirus were older adults or people with health problems, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Can Someone Get Coronavirus (COVID-19) From Packaged Foods or Animal Products From Areas Where People Are Infected?

It doesn't appear that coronavirus can spread through packaged foods or animal products. It's still important to use good food safety practices, such as handling raw meat with care and not eating raw or undercooked animal products.

Can Someone Get Coronavirus (COVID-19) From Mail or a Package?

There's no evidence that someone can be infected through mail or a package. The risk is very low because mail and packages usually are shipped over a period of days or weeks and it's not likely that the virus would survive on them. But it's a good idea to:

  • Wash your hands after handling mail.
  • Open and discard/recycle packages outside, then wash your hands right away when you go back into the house.

Can Pets Get Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Experts don't know if cats, dogs, and other pets can catch the virus. To be safe, people who are sick shouldn't have contact with their pets. If someone must care for a pet while sick, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a face mask.

Who Should Wear a Face Mask?

If available, face masks should be worn by:

  • health care providers
  • people who are coughing or sneezing, have coronavirus, or have been tested for coronavirus
  • in some cases, caregivers of people who have or may have coronavirus

What Should I Do if a Family Member Has Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The symptoms of coronavirus (fever, cough, sore throat, and trouble breathing) can look a lot like illnesses from other viruses. If a family member has trouble breathing, go to the emergency room or call an ambulance right away.

Call your doctor if someone in your family has a fever, cough, sore throat, or other flu-like symptoms. If this person has been near someone with coronavirus or lived in or traveled to an area where lots of people have coronavirus, tell the doctor. The doctor can decide whether your family member:

  • can be treated at home
  • should come in for a visit
  • can have a telehealth visit
  • needs to be tested for coronavirus

How Do Doctors Test People for Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

To test someone for coronavirus, doctors send a mucus sample from the nose and back of the throat to a lab. If the person coughs up mucus, doctors might send that for testing too.

How Can We Protect Ourselves From Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

To help protect yourself and your family from the coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • Avoid people who are sick. If someone at home is sick, take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Try to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people.
  • Follow national and local recommendations for social distancing and leaving your home.
  • Wash your hands well and often. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Teach your kids to do the same.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Use a household cleaner or wipe to clean surfaces and objects that people touch a lot.

How Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treated?

Doctors and researchers are working on medicines and a vaccine for coronavirus. Most people with the illness, including children, get better with rest and fluids. People who are very ill get care in a hospital with breathing help, IV fluids, and other treatments.

Antibiotics can't treat viruses so they won't help with the coronavirus. Medicines for the flu don't work either because the coronavirus is different from the flu virus.

Should We Cancel Our Travel Plans Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Recommendations for travel are changing every day. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for the latest updates.

What Is the Future of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Experts aren't sure what will happen. Some things that may influence what happens with coronavirus include:

  • how effective areas are at controlling its spread
  • how long it takes to develop medicines to treat coronavirus
  • how long it takes to develop a COVID-19 vaccine

Where Can I Get Updated Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Check the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus.

Reviewed by: Karen A. Ravin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2020