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COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Coronavirus (COVID-19)
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a type of coronavirus. This illness was first found in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses. They cause the common cold. They also cause more serious illnesses like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus. That means it's a new type that has not been seen in people before.
COVID-19 symptoms may include:
In severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia and make it hard to breathe without help from a machine. It can cause death.
COVID-19 is diagnosed with a viral test. This may also be called a PCR test or antigen test. It looks for evidence of the virus in your breathing passages or lungs (respiratory system).
The test is most often done on a sample from the nose, throat, or lungs. It's sometimes done on a sample of saliva. One way a sample is collected is by putting a long swab into the back of your nose.
Mild cases of COVID-19 can be treated at home. Serious cases need treatment in the hospital. Treatment may include medicines to reduce symptoms, plus breathing support such as oxygen therapy or a ventilator. Some people may be placed on their belly to help their oxygen levels.
Treatments that may help people who have COVID-19 include:
COVID-19 usually causes mild illness, similar to the flu. But some people get much sicker. They may develop pneumonia or other problems that need to be treated in the hospital. Some people die.
People with mild illness usually recover in about 2 weeks. But some people have health problems that last much longer. These may include fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, and depression or anxiety.
The virus can affect the heart, lungs, and brain in some people. Experts are studying COVID-19 to learn more about how it affects long-term health.
Be sure to follow all instructions from the CDC and your local health authorities. Here are some examples of specific precautions you may need to take.
If you're sick:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Heather Quinn MD - Family MedicineLesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
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