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COVID-19: Symptoms, Transmission & Treatment


On December 31, 2019, cases of undiagnosed viral pneumonia were reported by health authorities in Wuhan, China. The cause was confirmed as a new coronavirus, known as the 2019 novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which has not previously been identified in humans.

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.  

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection that originated in Wuhan, China. The first presumptive case of this virus in Ontario was identified on January 25, 2020.

To learn more about COVID-19, visit the Province of Ontario's website.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms range from mild — like the flu and other common respiratory infections — to severe, and can include:

  • fever
  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat/hoarse voice
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loss of sense of smell or taste
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • runny nose or nasal congestion

Atypical symptoms commonly found in children, seniors, and individuals living with a developmental disability can include:

  • unexplained fatigue or malaise
  • muscle aches
  • delirium
  • unexplained or increased number of falls
  • acute functional decline
  • exacerbation of current chronic conditions
  • chills
  • headaches
  • croup
  • conjunctivitis
  • multisystem inflammatory vasculitis (in children)

Complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions, like pneumonia or kidney failure, and in some cases, death.

If you are experiencing symptoms, you should call your health care provider or the Porcupine Health Unit to speak with someone about receiving testing.

If you need immediate medical attention you should call 911 and mention your travel history and symptoms.

How does the virus spread?

Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre. COVID-19 is transmitted from person-to-person that are near one another through respiratory droplets. These droplets can go in the mouth or nose of nearby people causing them to become infected with the virus. In order to prevent spread, wash your hands often, avoid touching your mouth and face, and practice physical distancing of 2 metres from others. If you are sick, stay home and self-isolate. A mask should be worn by anyone who has symptoms. People without symptoms should also wear a non-medical mask or face covering when inside public spaces; and outdoors if physical distancing is a challenge.

How long is the incubation period?

The incubation period is the time from when someone catches the virus to when they show symptoms. The incubation period for COVID-19 ranges from 1-14 days. It is possible that the virus may spread to another individual before someone shows symptoms.

How can I protect myself against COVID-19?

There is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.

There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • use alcohol-based sanitizer
  • maintain a physical distance of 2 metres between yourself and others
  • sneeze and cough into your sleeve
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • avoid contact with people who are sick
  • stay home if you are sick
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • wear a non-medical mask or face covering when inside public spaces; and outdoors if physical distancing is a challenge

Can I receive treatment for COVID-19?

There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, and there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses. Developing a vaccine could take a number of years. Most people with common human coronavirus illnesses will recover on their own. Often times symptoms can be treated. Supportive care for infected individuals can also be highly effective.

You should:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • get rest and sleep as much as possible
  • try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough.

What should I do if I think I have the virus?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 call your local Assessment Centre, your primary care provider or the Porcupine Health Unit at 1-800-461-1818.

Additional FAQs:

Can humans become infected with a novel coronavirus from an animal?

Yes, detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans in China in 2002 and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. As surveillance improves around the world, more coronaviruses are likely to be identified.

How long does COVID-19 stay on surfaces?

  • It is possible that COVID-19 may spread to a person who touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes.
  • It is not certain how long the virus survives on surfaces however studies show that coronaviruses may stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. Clean commonly touched surfaces with disinfectant to protect yourself and others.
  • There is evidence of community spread with COVID-19 as people have been infected but have not travelled outside of Canada or come into contact with someone who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 spread through airborne transmission?

  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission (when particles remain suspended in the air and are then inhaled by others).