COVID-19 is an illness caused by a type of coronavirus, an infectious virus that causes respiratory illness in humans. Also known as SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and has spread to every continent except Antarctica.
How Is COVID-19 Caused?
COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that can spread from airborne droplets or by touching your face after being in contact with an infected person. Scientists agree that the most common way it spreads is being within 6 feet of an infected person, which is why social distancing and mask wearing are especially useful in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Here’s what happens after the novel coronavirus enters the body:
- It travels down the nasal passageway and mucous membrane until it reaches the back of the throat.
- Once there, it clings to nearby cells and begins to multiply.
- The virus then moves into lung tissue and can move into other body tissues.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
How Is COVID-19 Diagnosed?
COVID-19 can be diagnosed with a lab test called a nasopharyngeal swab. It involves inserting a long nasal swab into a nostril to collect fluid from the back of the nose and throat. There are two types of COVID-19 tests:
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that detect the viral genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 and are considered very accurate
- Rapid antigen tests that identify protein fragments specific to SARS-CoV-2 and can deliver results within 15 minutes
How Is COVID-19 Treated?
COVID-19 treatment depends on the severity of your illness. For those with a mild COVID-19 infection, they can recover at home. Follow the same type of treatment as you would for a common cold: rest, stay hydrated and take over-the-counter medication. It is important to self-isolate as much as possible, ending your quarantine only if all of the following criteria have been met:
- 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- You have not have a fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication).
- Any other COVID-19 symptoms have improved.
Patients with moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk of being hospitalized may be eligible for antibody treatment, such as:
- Monoclonal antibody infusion, which introduces artificially manufactured antibodies into the body to help fight off the infection
- Convalescent plasma, which is blood donated from people with COVID-19 to provide additional antibodies to fight the infection
Patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms may need to be hospitalized to receive treatment. Currently, there are a few inpatient treatments available for COVID-19, including remdesivir (an antiviral medication given intravenously), supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation.