Woman wearing a mask with a germ in the background

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Also known as the novel coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, widely referred to as COVID-19, is a disease that surfaced in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2, and belongs to the family of coronaviruses, several of which cause the common cold. 

While COVID-19 is not exclusively a respiratory disease, the most common symptoms are respiratory in nature, including dry cough, congestion, and loss of taste or smell. But other reported symptoms are more systemic, ranging from fever and fatigue to muscle aches and gastrointestinal issues.

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people who are in close contact with one another. It spreads via respiratory droplets emitted when someone coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. It can also spread via airborne transmission. Because of the way COVID-19 spreads, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing are currently the best methods to prevent infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does coronavirus last?

    A mild to moderate case of coronavirus will typically last about two weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research shows the virus is no longer capable of infecting cells and replicating after about 10 days following the onset of symptoms. In more severe cases, it might take the virus 10 to 20 days to stop replicating and being infectious. In rare instances, people experience lingering, systemic symptoms months after their bodies have cleared the virus.

  • Is coronavirus airborne?

    COVID-19 can be airborne, although that’s not the primary way the virus spreads. Most infections are caused by heavier respiratory droplets spread between people in close contact when they cough, sneeze, talk, sing, or breathe. However, smaller droplets can linger in the air for minutes or hours, especially in poorly-ventilated and enclosed spaces.

  • Can you get COVID-19 twice?

    It is possible to get COVID-19 twice because the virus, like all viruses, can mutate. Experts say a SARS-CoV-2 infection may be protective against later infections, but not completely preventative. Vaccination is the best way to make sure any "breakthrough" infections are mild.

  • How does coronavirus spread?

    COVID-19 is easily spread between people in close contact who transmit respiratory droplets: particles emitted when we cough, sneeze, talk, sing, and breathe. Airborne transmission is possible when smaller versions of these droplets linger in the air, but it’s less common and more limited to poorly-ventilated spaces. Surface transmission is also possible when surfaces are contaminated with COVID-19, but is not a major driver of infections.

  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

    The symptoms of COVID-19 appear two to 14 days after exposure. While there are many symptoms of the disease, the CDC lists the most common as: 

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting 
    • Diarrhea 
    • Chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of sense of smell or taste

    Rare symptoms include (but are not limited to) delirium, pink eye, deep vein thrombosis, stroke, and discolored toes. If you have significant trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, new confusion, bluish lips or face, and are having trouble staying awake, seek emergency medical attention.

  • How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?

    While it’s uncommon to become infected from surfaces, research from Australia shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains on some non-porous surfaces for up to 28 days. At room temperature (68°F), the virus can live on stainless steel, vinyl, glass, and paper currency for 28 days. On cotton, the virus is undetectable after day 14. At higher temperatures, the SARS-CoV-2 survives for a shorter period of time. At 104°F, the virus becomes undetectable on non-porous surfaces after 48 hours, and on cotton, after 24 hours. 

  • Can you have coronavirus without a fever?

    You can have coronavirus without experiencing fever. However, research shows COVID-19 symptoms may appear in a specific order, usually starting with fever. After looking at data from 57,000 patients, researchers think the most common symptom trajectory is fever, cough, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea.

  • How long does it take to get coronavirus test results?

    Results of RT-PCR COVID-19 tests, which are considered to be the most accurate, typically take one to five days. The FDA says it is possible to get same-day results, but a week or more wait time is possible depending on lab capacity.

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Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Q&A. October 12, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How COVID-19 Spreads. October 28, 2020.

Additional Reading