[Skip to Content]

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reviewed by: Karen A. Ravin, MD

What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus began making people sick with flu-like symptoms. The illness is called coronavirus disease-19 — COVID-19 for short. The virus spreads easily and has now affected people in many countries.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 causes a fever, cough, and trouble breathing. Some people have a sore throat. Symptoms are a bit like those people have with a cold or the flu. The virus can be more serious in some people, and may lead to illnesses like pneumonia.

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).

Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dangerous to Children?

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. There are far fewer cases of the virus reported in children. Most of them caught the infection from someone they lived with or a family member. The virus seems to usually cause a milder infection in children than in adults or older people.

Call your doctor if your child or someone in your family has a fever, cough, or other flu-like symptoms. Tell the doctor if they have been near someone with COVID-19 or lived in or traveled to an area where lots of people have the coronavirus.

Make sure your children have all their vaccinations. Protect them against illnesses like measles and the flu. This helps keep them out of the doctor's office or hospital where they could be around other germs, including COVID-19. Plus, kids who have another infection may have a harder time getting better if they do get COVID-19.

How Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treated?

Most people with COVID-19, including children, do not have serious problems. They usually get better with rest and fluids. But it is important to keep kids with COVID-19 away from others who may have a harder time with the virus.

People who are very ill get care in a hospital with breathing help, IV fluids, and other treatments.

How Can I Protect Myself From Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The best ways to protect yourself and your family are:

  • Keep your family home and away from others as much as possible.
  • Avoid people who are sick. COVID-19 may be contagious before a person has any symptoms. So avoid large gatherings and busy places until the outbreak is under control.
  • Try to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people.
  • 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 and disinfect surfaces and objects that people touch a lot.
  • Follow recommendations from your local health authority, especially if there are people with coronavirus in your area.

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

Experts around the world are studying and tracking COVID-19 and are taking steps to prevent it from spreading.

Where Can I Learn More About Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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