COVID-19 Fact Sheet

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 which was identified in 2019. It is part of the coronavirus family, which includes common viruses that cause a variety of diseases from head or chest colds to more severe (but very rare) diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Coronaviruses spread quickly through droplets that are released when you breathe, cough, laugh, sneeze, or speak.

What are the symptoms?

COVID-19 typically causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia. COVID-19 may attack other parts of the body outside of the respiratory system. Most people with COVID-19 exhibit mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill.

Common symptoms are:

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

Those with mild illness may be asymptomatic (have no symptoms).

How long is a person with COVID-19 contagious?

If you have COVID-19, you can spread it to others, even if you do not have symptoms. Those with symptoms should get tested and stay home until results are obtained. If you have tested positive (even without symptoms), follow CDC's isolation recommendations. These recommendations include staying home and away from others for at least 5 days (possibly more, depending on how the virus affects you) and wearing a high-quality mask when indoors around others for a period of time. Those with a moderate or severe COVID-19 infection, or people who are immunocompromised, may be infectious longer.

Is there treatment?

There is treatment for COVID-19 for those who test positive. FDA authorized antiviral medications are available, even for mild disease, to minimize the risk of hospitalization and death in those who are at higher risk of becoming very sick. Initiation of antiviral treatment should not be delayed and must be started within days of development of symptoms to be effective. Antiviral treatments target specific parts of the virus to stop it from multiplying in the body, helping to prevent severe illness and death.

These antiviral treatments may have side effects or interact with other medications you are taking. Consult with a healthcare provider as soon as you can to determine if antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is the best option for you. You can visit this New York State Department of Health COVID-19 Treatments website or call: 1-888-TREAT-NY. You can also visit a Test to Treat location, or contact your local community health center or health department if you do not have a healthcare provider. If you are hospitalized due to COVID-19, your healthcare provider might use other treatments, depending on the severity of illness. These options may include medications to treat COVID-19, suppress an overactive immune response, or treat COVID-19-related complications.

If my child or another family member has been exposed, what should I do?

There is currently no FDA-approved post-exposure prophylaxis (medication to prevent illness) for people exposed to COVID-19.

If a family member has been exposed to COVID-19, then that individual should take precautions in case they are infected and should get tested. You can find additional information in CDC's exposure recommendations.

Who's at higher risk for COVID-19?

Those more likely to get very sick include older adults (ages 50 years and above, unvaccinated individuals, and people with certain medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, or a weakened immune system. Staying up to date with vaccinations lowers the risk of getting very sick. If you think you may be sick with COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider to determine if you are at risk.

What are the complications of COVID-19?

Complications of COVID-19 can include acute respiratory failure, pneumonia, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children/adults (MIS-C/A), acute liver injury, acute kidney injury, acute cardiac injury, blood clots, long-COVID and more.

What is the best way to prevent COVID-19?

COVID-19 vaccines help your body develop protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Although vaccinated people can become sick with COVID-19, staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccine lowers your risk of getting very sick, needing to go to the hospital or dying from COVID-19.

Another effective way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Other prevention strategies include maintenance of hand hygiene practices, properly wearing a high quality mask, and social distancing.

Why do I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination significantly lowers your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death if you get infected. Compared to people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, unvaccinated people are more likely to get COVID-19, much more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and much more likely to die from COVID-19.

Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection. Some people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations will get COVID-19 breakthrough infection. However, staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations means that you are less likely to have a breakthrough infection and, if you do get sick, you are less likely to get severely ill or die. Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination also means you are less likely to spread the disease to others and increases your protection against new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

When should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older in the United States for the prevention of COVID-19. CDC recommends that people stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination by completing a primary series and receiving the most recent booster dose recommended for them by CDC.

How can I learn about COVID-19 outbreaks?

For more information about vaccine-preventable diseases: