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General information about COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a type (strain) of coronavirus. A virus is a very small (microscopic) type of germ that can cause an infection. It can only replicate in a host, such as a person or other living things. You might not always feel sick from viruses. However, viruses can make you seriously ill and cause disease.

The disease caused by this virus has different names. The disease is called COVID-19 – Coronavirus Disease 2019 for the year in which it first appeared globally. COVID-19 is also known as “novel coronavirus,” meaning a new type of coronavirus not previously discovered or identified.

Coronaviruses are a group (or family) of viruses that cause different illnesses. These illnesses can range from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 is also called SARS-Cov-2 for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

Find more information on what is COVID-19 at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

If you have symptoms call your healthcare provider immediately. You can find other information about symptoms on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Why is everyone so worried about COVID-19

We used to think of a pandemic as a fictitious story plot for a book or movie; scary but really nothing to worry about. Those days are gone now that COVID-19 has made pandemic a “truth”, a reality happening in real time, and everyone is worried.

The reasons everyone is so worried about COVID-19 are that unlike seasonal flu:

  • It is a new virus
  • There are still things we don’t know about it
  • There are no medicines or vaccines for it yet
  • It is highly contagious and spreading fast
    • Naturally we worry because the future course of COVID-19 and how it may affect us individually is unclear. However, according to experts, worrying about what hasn’t happened yet is not good use of our time and energy. It’s better to focus on the things we can control by following the recommendations for preventing COVID-19 available from:

How contagious is COVID-19 and how does it spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily in some affected geographic areas.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person (within about 6 feet) through small drops of liquid made when an infected person coughs or sneezes (known as respiratory droplets).

Find more information on how COVID-19 spreads at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

When is someone with COVID-19 contagious?

COVID-19 can be contagious when someone has symptoms. It may also be contagious in people who are infected and not have symptoms. Researchers continue to study this new disease and how it spreads.

According to the CDC, "COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected. People who are infected often have symptoms of illness. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus."

The CDC also states that "COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States."

You can find more information on how COVID-19 spreads at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Where can I get tested?

The US Department of Health & Human Services has partnered with pharmacies and retail companies in an effort to make COVID-19 testing more available and accessible to Americans in many areas of the country. The goal of this partnership is to expand testing to communities across the US especially in populations that are under-tested and socially vulnerable.

Americans will have access to faster, less invasive, and more convenient testing for active COVID-19 infection, while protecting healthcare personnel by eliminating direct contact with symptomatic individuals.

It is important to remember that a negative test result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in a person's sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected especially in those who do not have any symptoms.

Click here to find a testing location near you.

Who is at risk for catching COVID-19?

The risk of catching COVID-19 depends on where you are, whether there is an outbreak in your area, and how fast that outbreak is spreading. Individuals at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 can include:

  • People who came in close contact with someone with COVID-19
  • Healthcare workers caring for people with COVID-19
  • Travelers returning from certain international places where COVID-19 may be spreading

Find more information on COVID-19 risk of exposure at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Find travel recommendations from the CDC here.

Who is at high risk for COVID-19?

People over the age of 65 and those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility are also at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Does kidney disease put me at a higher risk?

People with kidney disease and other severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for more severe illness.

People on dialysis can have weaker immune systems, making it harder to fight infections. However, it is important to know that kidney patients need to continue with their regularly scheduled dialysis treatments and to take necessary precautions as recommended by their healthcare team.

People with a kidney transplant need to take anti-rejection medicines (also known as immunosuppressive medicines). These medicines work by keeping the immune system less active, which can make it harder to fight infections. It is important to keep taking these medicines. It is also important to wash hands, maintain good hygiene and follow the recommendations from their healthcare team.

Why the recommendation to wash your hands and avoid touching your face?

Washing hands and avoiding touching your face can help prevent the risk of infection from germs such as COVID-19.

These recommendations were made to help people reduce risk of getting a COVID-19 infection and to help reduce transmission between people.

It is believed that the virus is spread from one person to another through close contact with a person who is infected. It is also possible to become infected by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

You can find more information on how COVID-19 spreads at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

How can I keep my hands clean?

The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Can my pet give me COVID-19?

At this time it does not appear that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. There are a small number of pets including cats and dogs reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people sick with COVID-19 should limit contact with animals the same as you would with people. 

What else can I do to keep my pets and myself healthy?

It is best to practice healthy habits around your pets to avoid spreading germs of any kind. Wash your hands after all pet related activities. Good pet hygiene is also important. For questions about your pet’s health or if your pet gets sick after contact with a person with COVID-19, call your veterinarian (animal doctor). Do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing and treating sick pets. 

Can I take my pet for a walk?

Whether or not you should take your pet for a walk depends on where you live. Check on local regulations related to COVID-19 before taking a walk with your pet. Walk pets on a leash, stay at least 6 feet from other people and animals, do not gather in groups, and stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. Do not go to dog parks or public places where a lot of people and dogs gather. To help keep social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog or cat when you are out for a walk.
You can find more information about animals and COVID-19 on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  

 

What cleaners work against COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that frequently touched surfaces be cleaned and disinfected daily. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options for cleaners include:

Diluting household bleach

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water; or
  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Alcohol solutions

  • Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol

Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants

  • Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens external icon claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19

Visit the CDC website for more information on cleaning and disinfecting, and other tips for prevention

What does "flattening the curve" mean

Flattening the curve refers to the goal of slowing the spread of an infectious disease in an effort to make the disease more manageable for the public health system.

Certain diseases like COVID-19, which can be contagious and is spread from person-to-person, has the potential to spread faster than what area hospitals can manage. Preventive steps, such as social distancing, are used to help slow the spread of an infectious disease to prevent a rush of sick people that can overwhelm hospitals.

The following graph from the Centers for disease control (CDC) illustrates the idea of flattening the curve. The taller curve shows a possible outbreak with no intervention. The shorter (or flatter) curve shows a possible outbreak with interventions. Flattening the curve can help reduce the number or sick people at any given time, giving hospitals and other parts of the health system a chance to respond without becoming overwhelmed.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/rr/rr6601a1.htm#F1_down

Why isn't there a vaccine for COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. Because COVID-19 is different, it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are working to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. The process of research and development can take some time. When a vaccine is developed, it also needs to be tested to make sure it’s safe and effective.

How can we get people to understand the importance of social distancing?

There are reports of younger people celebrating spring break in tightly clustered groups. Some have even made comments about not caring if they catch Covid-19. But some of these same people have taken back what they’ve said when made aware of the gravity of catching the disease and how it can hurt the ones they love, or even themselves. Young people are getting very sick and dying from Covid-19, especially healthcare professionals working on the front lines.

The same attitude of not caring about social distancing has been reported in older people as well.

People of all age groups need to have continued education on what this virus can do to them and the people they love. All age groups should be made aware of the crisis with hard data and first-hand reports of human suffering. They need to not be shielded from reality, and must be told that they can either be part of the solution otherwise they will add to the problem.

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. Because COVID-19 is different, it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are working to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. The process of research and development can take some time. When a vaccine is developed, it also needs to be tested to make sure it’s safe and effective.

Separating COVID-19 facts from fiction

We’ve all heard how pandemics, such as COVID-19, spread exponentially through a population. Unfortunately, misinformation – spread by posters on social media and inaccurate “news” stories reported by unreliable sites – also feed into the panic and anxiety many people are currently feeling.

And, when you have kidney problems, such as those with kidney disease, or if you’re on dialysis, or are a kidney transplant recipient – you may feel especially anxious and vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trustworthy sources

You are not alone and it’s important that you understand how to know which information you can trust. The most reliable and current information about COVID-19 can be found at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov) and the World Health Organization (WHO.int) websites.

Other important sources of accurate news include nonprofit organizations with a mission to serve patients, especially in their time of need, including the National Kidney Foundation (kidney.org) and your hospital, doctor, transplant, or dialysis center website.

Many major news agencies are reliable sources of information – but sometimes they may rush to report stories, resulting in news may be incomplete or not entirely accurate. A good idea is to stick to larger news organizations and those you are already familiar with and trust.

Social media: use caution

And then, there’s social media. Remember, pretty much anyone can post just about anything on a public online forum, which is why it’s important to not believe everything you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp, and other platforms. The posts on social media are not fact-checked or verified for accuracy and may cause confusion for readers.

Be part of the solution

We are all eager for the latest news on COVID-19 – we just need to be certain the news we see, and share, is accurate. Otherwise, we are also contributing to the problem.

How can I make a mask at home?

Can COVID-19 cause kidney failure in otherwise healthy adults?

There have been recent reports of nonelderly adults infected with COVID-19 who have developed an acute kidney injury (AKI) — sudden loss of kidney function. These adults did not have underlying medical conditions. With proper treatment, including dialysis in severe cases, AKI can be reversible.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is not the same as chronic kidney disease (CKD), which will eventually lead to chronic kidney failure (CKF). Neither CKD or CKF are reversible diseases. Detecting proteins and/or blood in urine labs is an early sign of kidney involvement in people with confirmed COVID-19.

AKI and COVID-19

Initial reports from Wuhan found approximately 3% to 9% of hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 developed an AKI. Incidence rates have now increased to 15% of hospitalized patients and 20% and higher in ICU patients with many requiring dialysis treatments. AKI appears to be a marker of COVID-19 infection severity and the mortality rate is higher for these patients

Various COVID-19-related effects that are thought to contribute to AKI include kidney tubular injury (acute tubular necrosis) with septic shock, microinflammation, increased blood clotting, and probable direct infection of the kidney. Most patients with COVID-19-related AKI who recover continue to have low kidney function after discharge from the hospital.

Long term implications of AKI

It’s recommended that recovered COVID-19 patients who had an AKI should be seen regularly by a kidney doctor, because their risk of developing chronic kidney disease is higher than others. COVID-19 patients who did not develop an AKI, but who had blood and/or protein in their urine, should be monitored since they are at increased risk of developing chronic- and end-stage-kidney disease.

Can I recover from COVID-19 and then get it again?

" With regards to recovery and then reinfection…we do not have the answers to that. That is an unknown."

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme

According to the CDC, the immune response to COVID-19 infection is not yet understood. It is believed, in the short-term, that people who recover from COVID-19 are unlikely to be reinfected with the virus. However, the length of time that someone may be immune is uncertain.

WHO guidance

In a recent statement, WHO officials have reported there is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. In addition, no study has evaluated whether the presence of COVID-19 antibodies confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.

COVID-19 testing accuracy

There is also some concern regarding the test for COVID-19 antibodies. A negative test result means that there were no detectable antibodies found in the specimen. However, not all people with confirmed COVID-19 infection have antibodies above the detectable level. The sensitivity of the test to detect virus antibodies determines the accuracy of the results. There have been reports of false positive results, leading people to think they have some measure of protection, when in fact, they do not.

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