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Although the virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, it is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in Hubei province and other parts of China. In the U.S., spread from person-to-person has occurred only among a few close contacts and has not spread any further to date.
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Patients who get sick with COVID-19 develop mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
Many common illnesses can cause these same symptoms. COVID-19 can only be diagnosed at a public health laboratory. Individuals who have these symptoms and have traveled to China or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be seen by a doctor or medical professional.
CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
There is no specific medicine to treat COVID-19 infection at this time, though studies are underway. People sick with COVID-19 should receive supportive care from a health care professional. Supportive care means care to help relieve symptoms; for example, medicine to bring down fevers, or oxygen if a patient’s oxygen level is low.
Diagnosis occurs through laboratory testing of respiratory specimens and serum (blood). Some coronavirus strains cause the common cold and patients tested by their health care provider may test positive for these types. The COVID-19 strain can only be detected at a public health laboratory.
CDPH recommends avoiding travel to China. Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other areas in Hubei Province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport. Additional restrictions and cancellations of events may occur. For travel advice for other countries, please visit that country’s Destination Page or CDC’s Travel Health Notice website.
If you have been in China or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.