Coronavirus (COVID-19) 101

Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Protect Yourself

Updated: Friday, Feb. 25, 2021

We learn more about the coronavirus and COVID-19 every day. It’s important to stay informed so you can stay healthy. Get the latest facts on the coronavirus and COVID-19 illness, as well as information on symptoms, testing, how to protect yourself and more.

Basic facts about the coronavirus and COVID-19

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which cause disease. For example, coronaviruses – among other viruses – are often responsible for the common cold.

The new coronavirus that’s led to the pandemic is called SARS-CoV-2. However, that name can be hard to remember and say, so most people just call it “the coronavirus.”

What’s the difference between the coronavirus and COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the respiratory illness that’s caused by the new coronavirus. COVID-19 is short for “coronavirus disease 2019” because the illness was first identified in 2019.

If you catch the coronavirus, you may develop symptoms of COVID-19. Some people infected with coronavirus might not develop symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. That’s why it’s so important to continue to follow recommended safety guidelines that are helping to slow the spread of the virus.

How does the coronavirus spread?

The coronavirus, COVID-19, is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). The virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, or talks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), airborne transmission can also occur under certain conditions. Small or enclosed spaces with poor ventilation may increase your exposure to the virus because of small droplets and particles lingering in the air.

While less common, COVID-19 can be spread by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. That means it’s possible for you to get the virus by touching an infected surface and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

If you become infected with COVID-19, you may experience a wide range of symptoms. Some of the most common are fever and a dry, persistent cough.

Generally, COVID-19 symptoms can be similar to flu symptoms Opens in new window, but include at least two of the following:

Common COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatique
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you’re like most people who contract COVID-19, you may only experience mild symptoms of the illness. However, it’s possible to develop serious symptoms that need more intensive care.

Older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions – like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes – appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19-related complications.

Coronavirus incubation period

Symptoms of COVID-19 can develop 2 to 14 days after exposure to the coronavirus. The average incubation period – which is the time between infection and first symptoms – appears to be about five days.

Again, it’s important to know that you can be infected with the coronavirus and not develop any COVID-19 symptoms. However, you can still infect others.

When to call or seek online care for COVID-19 symptoms

Mild COVID-19 symptoms can be treated from the comfort of home with guidance from a care provider. Online clinics like Virtuwell provide through symptom assessment, treatment (including prescriptions), and help scheduling a test for COVID-19.

Let your care provider know if symptoms continue to get worse – fevers above 100.4 F, worsening cough, or a worsening or persistent sore throat, may require further assessment and treatment.

When to seek in-person care for COVID-19 symptoms

Seek in-person care at an urgent care or emergency room immediately if you experience:

Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or extreme tiredness
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Severe constant dizziness or feeling too weak to stand

How is COVID-19 treated?

Treatment for mild cases of COVID-19 focuses on managing and relieving symptoms as the virus runs its course. There are many easy steps you can take when treating COVID-19 symptoms at home, including over-the-counter medications and home remedies. Managing your symptoms well can help your body fight off the coronavirus and recover faster.

There are also treatments and therapies available for severe cases of COVID and for those at high-risk for complexities. If hospitalized with COVID-19 you may be treated with the antiviral medication, Remdesivir (Veklury). COVID patients in certain high-risk groups may also be treated with monoclonal antibody therapy. This treatment is given in-clinic and helps your body’s immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus.

Additionally, preventative COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in the U.S. and are currently being distributed to essential workers and vulnerable populations. To learn more about vaccine availability near you, we recommend checking with your local state health department.

There are things we can all do to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends practicing these everyday preventive actions to help lower your risk of getting sick:

Avoid close contact and practice social distancing

  • Put a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others.
  • Don’t come in close contact with people who are sick.
  • Skip large group gatherings or crowded places whenever possible.

Wear a mask in public

  • When you must go out, always wear a mask or cloth face covering.
  • Make sure your mask covers both your nose and mouth. It should also fits snugly on your face.

Wash your hands frequently

  • Use soap and warm water and wash your hands thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.

Don’t give the coronavirus a chance to spread

  • Cover all your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your home and workplace regularly.

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms

If you think you have (or know you have) COVID-19 symptoms, the first thing to do is stay calm and schedule a COVID-19 test. Most people only experience mild symptoms and can get better at home, on their own. If you do need extra help, there are medical resources available.

Next, you’ll want to:

  • Stay home and seek online care. Staying isolated or quarantined while you have symptoms limits the spread of the virus. Online care can help you get a personalized testing and treatment plan.
  • Use over-the-counter medications and home remedies. These can relieve your symptoms and help your body’s immune system fight off the virus.
  • Watch your symptoms: If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor or seek in-person care. If your symptoms get better, know when it’s okay to leave quarantine.

How Virtuwell can help during the pandemic

As a 24/7 online clinic, we’re always here to help you get the care you need – whether that’s related to COVID-19 or not.

Personalized COVID-19 care

Whether you’re experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms or you’ve tested positive and are looking for help with symptom management, we’re here to help. We’ll guide you through a simple Q&A about you and your symptoms. Then our certified nurse practitioners will review your answers and create a customized treatment plan including free follow-up care for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Expert medical advice

Experienced nurse practitioners are at the heart of every visit. If you’re looking for expert advice on COVID-19, they’re here answer your common and complex questions including isolation, vaccination, and more.

Drive-up testing

For those who meet the latest testing criteria and live in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, we’ll help you schedule a drive-up COVID-19 test appointment at a HealthPartners or Park Nicollet clinic currently offering tests.

For those who live outside of Minnesota or western Wisconsin, testing availability may vary in your community. We recommend contacting your local healthcare provider or state health department website for testing guidelines and locations in your area.

Everyday conditions treated online

Don’t need care related to COVID-19? We’re ready to help with other health concerns too. Our nurse practitioners can treat you online from the comfort of your home – without risking exposure or spread of contagious viruses.

We provide online treatment for over 60 everyday health conditions, including bladder infections, pink eye, acne & rashes and more.

Learning more about COVID-19

Virtuwell follows CDC guidelines for coronavirus and COVID-19 prevention, screening and treatment. For the latest updates, visit CDC’s website.