Much of what experts know is based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. When person-to-person transmission occurred with Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes from an infected person were the likely culprit, according to the CDC. Those droplets can land in the mouths or noses of nearby people or be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says.
Health officials are still working to better understand how easily the virus is spread from person to person. It may be possible for an infected person to spread the virus before exhibiting symptoms. However, people are thought to be most contagious when they are sick with the symptoms of the virus, the CDC says.
What are the symptoms?
Patients with COVID-19 have reported symptoms similar to other respiratory illnesses, including mild to severe fever, cough and shortness of breath, the CDC reports. Many patients with severe complications from the virus develop pneumonia and may require assistance breathing with a ventilator.
However, if you develop emergency warning signs — pain or pressure in the chest, disorientation or confusion, a blue tint in your face or lips, or difficulty breathing or shortness of breath — get medical attention immediately, health officials warn.