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COVID-19 Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment | UPMC
COVID-19 Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment | UPMC

Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)

What Is the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)?

A coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory infections in humans.

Illnesses can range from the common cold or flu to more severe conditions, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

A new strain of coronavirus — SARS coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 — causes COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

COVID-19 Causes

SARS-CoV-2 spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, releasing droplets that can land in an uninfected person's nose or mouth.

It may also spread by touching an infected item, such as a doorknob, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

The SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 outbreak started in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

COVID-19 Risk Factors and Complications

Some people who are infected with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms. But COVID-19 can also lead to more serious — even deadly — complications, like pneumonia.

Those most at risk for COVID-19 complications include people who:

  • Travel to, work, or live in places with COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Are older
  • Have health conditions, such as lung or heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer
  • Work in health care

How to Prevent COVID-19

Follow these tips to lower your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to wash after you cough or sneeze, before you eat, after you use the bathroom, and after you touch common surfaces.
  • If you do not have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Spreading the hand sanitizer on both sides of the hands and rub them together until they are dry.
  • Sanitize tables, countertops, doorknobs, and other common items.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough.
  • Keep your distance from others, especially if COVID-19 has been found in your community.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep a distance of at least 6 feet.
  • Stay home if you're sick. If you have a fever or cough, call your doctor or use UPMC AnywhereCare for guidance. A virtual care visit using telemedicine from home limits the spread of infection. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, you should visit an emergency department in your community for immediate care

COVID-19 Symptoms and Diagnosis

COVID-19 symptoms can start anytime from two days to two weeks after exposure to SARS-CoV-2. They're similar to symptoms of a cold or flu and may include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosing COVID-19

To confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis, you will need lab tests.

Your doctor will work with these labs to arrange testing.

COVID-19 Treatment

The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations to two vaccines to prevent COVID-19. These vaccines are being distributed in a phased rollout and are not yet available to the general public. Please visit to learn more.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests people who have COVID-19 should get treatment for their symptoms. People with severe illness require hospital care.

Learn more about COVID-19

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