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COVID-19: The Basics

Go to COVID-19 Toolkit page on OhioHealth blog

We’ve translated COVID-19 education pieces to help members of our Spanish and Somalian speaking communities.
Please share these documents if you know someone who could benefit from having this information.

Download PDF with COVID-19 information translated to Spanish     Download PDF with COVID-19 information translated to Somali




What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect people and animals. These kinds of viruses can cause the common cold, or more serious diseases like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, which is the newest strain that first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The COVID-19 virus has since been carried by travelers to countries around the world.

In COVID-19, CO stands for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease. It has also been called the 2019 novel coronavirus and 2019-nCOV.

How does the new coronavirus, COVID-19, spread?

The new virus is spreading easily from person to person, most commonly through close contact (within 6 feet of each other). It can spread easier and cause more infections than other coronaviruses because it’s a new strain that people haven’t yet built an immunity to.

When an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes, they produce respiratory droplets that carry the infection. These droplets can be inhaled by others or land in their mouths or noses. This is the most common way COVID-19 is spread, similar to the flu. While less common, you can also be infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms seen with this strain range from having no symptoms (asymptomatic), being mildly sick to being severely ill. Common symptoms include…

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Most people only develop mild symptoms, but people over 60, those with other health conditions, and pregnant people are at a higher risk of severe complications.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

Symptoms of the new virus appear two to 14 days after exposure.

How can I protect myself?

You should follow these tips to reduce your risk of COVID-19, as well as any cold, flu or respiratory virus:

  • Wear a mask in public and when around those not in your household.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from those not in your household.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home and isolate from others when sick.

What should I do if I think I might be infected?

You should call your medical provider if you:

  • Feel sick with fever, cough or have difficulty breathing.
  • Have been close to someone infected with the new coronavirus.
  • Have recently traveled to a location known to have active cases of COVID-19.

Call your medical provider before your visit to discuss your risks and symptoms. This will help limit exposure to other people and prepare your provider for an evaluation. If you are sick, do not travel or go out to reduce the possibility of exposing others to your illness.

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

Yes. You should consider getting tested for COVID-19 if you…

  • Are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Have traveled or attending a large gathering.

What will happen if they determine I have COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that anyone who is actively sick with COVID-19 be isolated at home or at a hospital (depending on how sick they are) until they are better or no longer pose a risk of infecting others. This time period can vary from person to person, so the decision to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis by doctors, infection prevention and control experts and public health officials. Disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and test results are considered.

How is COVID-19 treated?

At this time, there is no medication for this strain. If you are infected, your medical provider will recommend rest, fluids and medication to control your fever or relieve symptoms. Severe cases will require care to support vital organ functions.

There are currently two FDA approved vaccines; one made by Pfizer and the other by Moderna. Ohio is distributing these vaccines through a tiered eligibility system. For more information on Ohio’s vaccination plan and your eligibility, click here.

If you think you may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, call your primary care doctor or the Ohio Department of Health Call Center. The call center is now open 7 days a week from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. to answer your COVID-19 questions and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

The information in this article was updated February 1, 2021, and aligns with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website.


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