• FAQ on COVID-19 for the general public

1. What is a coronavirus? And what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are actually a family of viruses, named for the crownlike spikes on their surfaces. These coronaviruses, some of which can infect both people and animals, can cause an illness as mild as the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). 

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a novel member of the coronavirus family — SARS-CoV-2 — that first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

2. What are the symptoms and complications of COVID-19, and who is most vulnerable?

According to the CDC, the manifestation of COVID-19 has ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear from two to 14 days after exposure, and include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. COVID-19 is especially dangerous for the elderly as well as people with underlying conditions or compromised immune systems.

3. Will warm weather stop the spread of COVID-19?

The effect of weather on COVID-19 is still unknown, given its recent development. Some viruses, like the cold and the flu, spread more readily during the colder winter months, although that does not preclude infection other times of the year.

4. Is there any medicine, vaccination or antibiotic that can prevent or treat COVID-19?

According to the WHO, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure COVID-19. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections and are not effective in treating viruses, which includes COVID-19. There are medications that might alleviate some of the symptoms but will not treat the underlying viral cause of the illness. Scientists are actively working on devising a vaccine for COVID-19, but because of testing requirements, it is not expected to be available for a year or longer.

5. How seriously should we take the threat of COVID-19?

We should take this public health emergency very seriously. It is important not to panic — information so far suggests the disease will be mild in most people. But a portion of the population will become seriously ill and some will die — how many is unknown at this point. Everyone should take basic hygiene precautions, even if they are healthy, including frequent hand washing and avoiding exposure to the virus. People who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who think they may have been exposed to the virus should contact their health care provider immediately.