Woman wearing a mask with a germ in the background

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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. 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, though there are very few documented cases. This is because the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates over time. In the known cases of reinfection, people were infected with different strains of the virus as a result of those mutations. Mutations are normal and do not usually create more virulent strains of a virus. Experts say a SARS-CoV-2 infection may be protective against later infections, but not completely preventative.

  • 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.

Explore Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus rendering
COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) Timeline
intensive care unti
Cytokine Storm: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Dexamethasone: Box with pills of Covid-19 immune suppression drug
Dexamethasone: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
Prescription and medication
Chloroquine: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
How to Use Telehealth Services During COVID-19
woman looking out window
What Happens During a Quarantine?
Pharmacist holding medicine box and capsule pack
How to Stockpile Medications in Case of an Emergency
woman wearing surgical mask
Can Medical Face Masks Prevent Viral Infections?
pandemic preparedness essentials
Pandemic: How to Prepare for the new Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Doctor using a microscope to view bacteria
Phases or Stages of a Pandemic
pandemic map
Epidemic vs. Pandemic, What Is the Difference Between an Epidemic and Pandemic?
cleaning kitchen counter wearing gloves
How to Make Your Own Disinfectant Bleach Solution
Hand washing
How to Wash Your Hands: CDC Guidelines
Using Hand Sanitizer
How to Properly Use Hand Sanitizer
man sleeping with CPAP machine
Should People With Sleep Apnea Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
experimental vaccine vials
How the FDA Is Helping Expedite Vaccine Boosters For COVID-19 Variants
woman drinking wine looking at tablet
Does Alcohol Reduce COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness?
Close up of someone's hands holding a blank COVID-19 vaccination card.
You Got Your COVID-19 Vaccine. Now What?
An illustration of a group of people of mixed race and age wearing face masks.
New Report Outlines 5-Point Plan for Vaccine Equity in Communities of Color
Moderna vials
Moderna in Conversation with FDA to Add Doses to COVID-19 Vaccine Vials
A blizzard
What to Do if Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Is Canceled or Delayed
Nurse giving flu vaccine to a senior patient in the hospital.
COVID-19 Vaccines May Now Be Available at Your Local Pharmacy
Pregnant woman receiving a vaccine.
COVID-19 Vaccine Considerations to Discuss with a Doctor During Pregnancy
A composite x-ray of a right and left breast on a mammogram.
Swollen Lymph Nodes After COVID-19 Vaccines May Cause Mammogram Confusion
Photo of Vincent Ganapini
'I Saw What the Virus Can Do': Physician Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
young adult male taking selfie with phone while wearing a mask
A Verywell Report: Why Young Adults Say They Won't Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
line of cars at Petco Park for covid vaccine
How Stadiums and Amusement Parks Are Converted Into COVID-19 Vaccination Sites
vaccine hunters no logo
Vaccine Hunters Are Crossing State Lines for a COVID-19 Shot
Healthcare professional with gloves and face mask injecting a vaccine into the arm of an unseen person who is obese.
How Does Obesity Affect COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity?
Woman wearing a face mask getting a vaccine.
Here's Why Your Symptoms May Be Worse After Your Second COVID-19 Shot
A colorful illustration of a woman of color with a face mask on a blue back ground with COVID-19 virus particles around her.
Without Women, COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts in the U.S. Would Fail
vaccine graph
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 8
Doctor in personal protective equipment vaccinating a patient.
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don't Need to Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure
Young Asian businesswoman with protective face mask to protect from viruses/air pollution, using smartphone while commuting in the city, against energetic and prosperous downtown city street with urban skyscrapers
How to Use Social Media to Secure Your COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment
Conceptual image of a gloved hand holding a syringe.
What Does COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy Mean?
Walmart storefront
COVID-19 Vaccines Set To Ship To Retail Pharmacies Across the Country
vaccination certificate
Better Business Bureau: Don't Post COVID-19 Vaccine Card on Social Media
woman pulling down her mask to take a pill
NSAIDs (Advil, Motrin) May Dampen the Antibody Response to COVID-19 Vaccines
Google maps vaccine finder.
Google Maps Now Displaying COVID-19 Vaccination Locations in Certain States
Photo of Michael Crowley.
'Similar to a Flu Shot': Healthcare Worker Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
vaccine graph
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 1
Young woman takes photo with COVID-19 vaccine card.
'It's an Act of Love': Chicago Teacher Shares Experience Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine
A pregnant white woman receiving a vaccine by a Black female healthcare professional. Both are wearing face masks.
WHO: Both COVID-19 Vaccines OK If You're Pregnant
Black older man receiving a vaccine shot.
Why Are Black Americans Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine at Lower Rates?
A gloved hand holding a syringe.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Might Help Curb Virus Spread
vaccine decisions logo
A Verywell Report: How Americans Feel About COVID-19 Vaccines
nursing home staffer with resident
Why Are COVID-19 Vaccination Rates So Low Among Nursing Home Staff?
ask an infectious disease expert makeda robinson
Ask an Infectious Disease Expert: Will COVID-19 Vaccines Work Against New Variants?
vaccine technician wearing mask and glasses and patient wearing mask and glasses
More COVID-19 Vaccines Available to Community Health Centers
COVID vaccine distribution tracker no text grand journey
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker
vaccine graph
Verywell COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Jan. 25
Older man receiving a vaccine shot while wearing mask.
Novavax Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is 90% Effective
older man in mask receiving a vaccine from woman
Communities Step Up to Help Seniors Register for COVID-19 Vaccines
Scientist adding vaccine dose to a syringe.
Merck Discontinues Its COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates
Israel gives first doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer
What America Can Learn from Israel’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
child wearing mask receiving vaccine from healthcare worker with face shield
Children Could Begin Receiving COVID-19 Vaccinations This Spring
young female healthcare worker taking a break
Study Explores Which Healthcare Workers Are Apprehensive of a COVID-19 Vaccine
A 24 hour pharmacy sign.
Don't Loiter At Pharmacies Hoping For a COVID-19 Vaccine
Someone receiving a vaccine short in their arm.
Moderna Developing COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot To Address Variants
Older woman receiving a vaccine shot from a nurse.
Can You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine if You're Undocumented?
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