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What is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is a disease caused by coronavirus germs that pass easily from one person to another.
- It is caused by a type of coronavirus germ not found in people before 2019.
- COVID-19 affects a person’s nose and throat and can sometimes affect a person’s lungs and can make it hard to breathe normally.
- Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19. For more information, visit COVID-19 Vaccine.
- Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, congestion or runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include stomach symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- These symptoms may show up 2-14 days after you are around someone who has COVID-19.
- Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms.
- Even after recovering from COVID-19, some people may have symptoms that continue for a long time such as fatigue, cough, or joint pain. Refer to health effects below for more information.
- Get tested if you have symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
For more information, visit CDC: Symptoms of COVID-19.
How it spreads
COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
- If you are near someone who has COVID-19, you breathe the same air that they do. When they breathe out, tiny germs leave their bodies and go into the air. When you breathe in that same air, the coronavirus germs can go into your body.
- When someone who has COVID-19 sneezes or coughs, the coronavirus germs can land on your eyes, nose, or mouth and get into your body.
- When your hands have coronavirus germs on them, and you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes, the germs can get into your body. It is important to wash your hands, even if they look clean, before you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes.
People who have COVID-19 may be able to spread the disease to other people before they have symptoms or feel sick.
A person can also spread the disease if they have no symptoms. Research has shown that around half of all people who get COVID-19 do not have symptoms.
For more information, visit CDC: How COVID-19 Spreads.
Prevention and treatment
- About COVID-19 Vaccine
Learn when and where you can get the vaccine and boosters as well as how the vaccine helps to protect you.
- Protect Yourself & Others: COVID-19
How to slow the spread, including information on masks, people at increased risk, and travel recommendations.
- COVID-19 Testing
Tests are an important tool to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Find out where you can get tested, when to test, types of tests, and what to do while waiting for test results.
- If You Are Sick or Test Positive: COVID-19
What to do if you are sick, how long to stay home and wear a mask, information on medications and going to the doctor.
- Close Contact or Exposure to COVID-19
What steps to take if you have been around someone who has COVID-19.
- COVID-19 Medications
If you are at high risk for getting very ill and you get a positive test, contact your doctor right away to see if you should receive treatment (medication). Treatment should be started within five to seven days from the start of symptoms, even if symptoms are mild.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 can affect people in different ways. Some can get very sick, while most have mild or moderate symptoms and get better without going to a clinic or into a hospital. Some have no symptoms. Some people die.
- The long-term health effects are still unknown but there may be permanent damage to the heart, lungs, or other organs. This is more likely in those who had more severe illness but may also be possible even in those who had mild illness. Learn more at Long COVID.
- Older adults, people who are pregnant, and people of any age who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, might be at higher risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19.
- COVID-19 can also lead to health problems in children. More research is needed to better understand how the virus may cause short and long-term illness.
- COVID-19 can cause stress when people cannot go to work, must be in the hospital, or are separated from family and friends. This stress can lead to other health problems and affect a person’s well-being.
Resources include supporting mental well-being during COVID-19. If someone you know is in crisis, use Crisis Text Line by texting MN to 741741.
- Variants are common with a virus like the one that causes COVID-19. Viruses constantly change (through mutation). When a virus changes it is called a “variant” of the original virus. New variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
- Multiple COVID-19 variants have spread around the world and in the United States. Many of these variants have spread in Minnesota.
- MDH and our partners are actively testing new positive test samples to continue to detect variants and learn more.
- Data shows that some variants spread more easily and can be much more contagious than the original virus.
How vaccination helps
- Vaccination reduces spreading of the virus, which makes it harder for it to change (mutate) and create variants.
- Vaccines reduce your risk of getting very sick, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. That's why it's so important for all who are eligible to get vaccinated.
- Minnesotans who are age 6 months and older should also get an updated booster shot when they are due.
Testing for variants
- COVID-19 tests do not tell you which variant you have.
- Through a process called sequencing, scientists can determine which variants are spreading and monitor how the virus is changing.
- A percentage of people's tests — not all tests — are sent to the state's public health lab. Testing for variants takes a long time and a lot of work. It takes the lab about 42 hours to run 100 tests. We conduct enough tests to give us a good idea of what variants are spreading.
- We are not able to release the results of these variant tests to doctors or patients. No matter which variant you have, you'll take the same steps, like staying away from others, getting vaccinated, and wearing a mask when recommended.
For more information, visit CDC: Variants of the Virus.
Getting COVID-19 again
- If you had COVID-19 in the past three months, you may still have some protection from the virus. However, your chance of getting COVID-19 again goes up as time goes on, especially with new variants spreading from person to person. Variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 may be different from your first infection and your natural immunity may not be able to protect you as well from the variants.
- The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. You do not have to wait three months after recovering from COVID-19 to get vaccinated.
- Research shows that people who are up to date on vaccination get better protection from COVID-19 compared to those who only have natural immunity from a previously having COVID-19. A CDC report shows that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again: Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021.