General information about COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a type (or 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.

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).

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.

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, “people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

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).

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.

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 should I wash my hands and avoid touching my 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.

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 ( and the World Health Organization ( 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 ( 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.

Can my pet give me COVID-19?

It does not appear that you can get COVID-19 from any animals in the United States. There are also no known cases of animals getting COVID-19. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends that people sick with COVID-19 should limit contact with animals until we know more about the virus.

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

It’s 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 call your veterinarian.

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.

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),

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.

Is the re-use of masks at dialysis centers acceptable?

There have reports that dialysis providers are using masks in an abundance of caution, which may also lead to re-use of masks in times of shortage.

It is best for people receiving dialysis to discuss the issue of reusing masks with their dialysis provider.

There are CDC recommendations for the re-use of masks for areas experiencing severe shortages. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Facemasks that fasten via ties may not be able to be undone without tearing and should not be re-used.
  • Facemasks with elastic ear hooks may be more suitable for re-use.
  • If these masks are to be re-used, the facemask should be carefully folded so that the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce contact with the outer surface during storage. The folded mask can be stored between uses in a clean sealable paper bag or breathable container.

These guidelines were drafted for healthcare professionals, but the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) believes they also apply to patients.

More information on the use of masks can be found at the CDC website.