Updated Sept. 2, 2020
General COVID-19 Questions
The following information has been compiled from the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and state and local infectious disease experts. This information is subject to change based on the rapidly evolving situation.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The medical community is still learning about how COVID-19 affects people. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
Illness due to COVID-19 is general mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: Around 1 out of every 5 people who catch COVID-19 need hospital care. It appears that older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) develop serious illness more often than others.
Maintain at least 6 feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your face. Practice good respiratory hygiene and remember to cover your coughs and sneezes with your flexed elbow or tissue. Do not share food or drinks. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them prior to disinfection.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services is asking people if they leave home to:
- Wear a cloth face covering.
- Wait 6 feet apart. Avoid close contact.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
The agency also recommends these masks for caregivers of people infected with the virus. A surgical mask cannot prevent you from becoming infected with the virus. The CDC does not recommend N95 respirators for use, except for health care workers. There is a worldwide shortage of N95 masks, and if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk.
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.
Both quarantine and isolation keeps people away from other people. The CDC defines it as:
- Quarantine keeps someone who was in close contact with someone has COVID-19 away from others.
- Isolation keeps someone who is sick or tested positive for COVID-19 without symptoms away from others, even in their own home.
CDC Reference: COVID-19: Quarantine vs. Isolation (PDF)