About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
What is a coronavirus?
- Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They are estimated to cause about a third of all cases of the common cold.
- The most common forms can cause mild to moderate illness in people, while other forms circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats.
What is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before.
- COVID-19 is not caused by the same coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012. However, it is in the same family of viruses.
- Because this is a new virus, there are still things we do not know, such as how severe the illness can be, how well it is transmitted between people, and other features of the virus. More information will be provided when it is available.
What was the source of this outbreak?
- Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China, reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source.
- SARS, another coronavirus that emerged to infect people, came from civet cats, while MERS, another coronavirus that emerged to infect people, came from camels. Officials are trying to determine if something similar happened with COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- According to CDC, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
- shortness of breath
- Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat, or diarrhea.
- Based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of other coronaviruses, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
How does COVID-19 spread?
- This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but is now able to spread from person-to-person.
- It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person.
- Patients who have been identified with COVID-19 in the United States have traveled to an area in China where the virus is circulating or have had contact with a known case.
- When person-to-person spread has occurred with other coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory diseases spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.
Take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough.
What is the risk for Minnesotans?
- At this time, there are no cases in Minnesota. MDH works closely with health care providers to evaluate whether patients meet CDC criteria for testing. Although we do not have any cases, we consider any new infectious disease a serious concern and we are in close communication with CDC.
- There is much more to learn about how this novel coronavirus spreads, and how common it is to have mild disease or severe disease. Investigations are ongoing.
What happens if there is a confirmed case in Minnesota?
- Hospitals, clinics, or other health care providers are to call MDH regarding patients that may have COVID-19. If the patients meet criteria for testing, laboratory samples are collected and submitted to the CDC for testing. This testing can take several days.
- While awaiting test results, the ill person is isolated to prevent others from becoming ill.
- If at any point CDC testing were to confirm a case of COVID-19 in a Minnesota resident, the available details and protective recommendations would be shared with the patient, people who have been in close contact with the ill person, and the public as quickly as possible.
How big could this outbreak get?
- Health officials are working hard to learn more about the virus, and it is still too early to make any predictions about this outbreak.
- With more attention and awareness, we’d expect to see the case count go up. Fortunately we have a strong, multi-level public health system in place to monitor for illness, and help people avoid becoming ill.
- Information and recommendations will be updated as we learn more in the days to come.
- Learn more at What MDH is doing: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
More about COVID-19
- Learn more about COVID-19 at CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).