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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infection caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms. Some usually cause mild illness. Some, like this one, can also cause more severe symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

​COVID-19 infection often causes fever, cough, and some trouble breathing. Some people have mild symptoms. Other people can get quite sick. Rarely, people die.

How is it spread?

​COVID-19 is spread when people touch or breathe in droplets made when ill people cough, sneeze or talk. This can happen when someone is close to a sick person, within six feet. Rarely, people might catch COVID-19 by touching a surface that a person with the infection coughed or sneezed on, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. Coronaviruses can’t survive for long on surfaces, though, so this isn’t common. 


What is the difference between COVID-19 and influenza (the flu)?

​COVID-19 and influenza have similar symptoms. Right now, influenza is still circulating in Oregon. It is a much more likely cause of cough and fever than coronavirus. The symptoms of novel coronavirus are similar to flu and other respiratory viral illnesses. Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Illness can range from mild to severe.

What is my risk of getting COVID-19?

​Your risk of getting COVID-19 relates to your exposure to the virus. 

Most people in the United States, including Oregon:

  • ​Have not traveled to locations where the virus is active.
  • Have not had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Therefore, most people in Oregon have not had exposure to the virus. 

We expect this to remain the case in the near future. Returning travelers are taking steps to protect others. 

Recently, there have been people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Oregon. We expect that more people will be exposed to COVID-19. For that reason, it is a good idea to take the steps outlined below to decrease your risk of infection.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

​There is little evidence that masks limit exposure or decrease risk of illness when used in the public setting. They might lead to a false sense of security and make people less likely to take other, more effective measures to decrease risk of infection. 

Masks do appear to be useful when they are worn by people who are ill to limit the spread of virus when the ill person coughs or sneezes.

I have tested positive for a coronavirus. Is this the same as COVID-19?

​There are several different kinds of coronaviruses. Health centers can test for common coronaviruses when people come in with cough or cold-like symptoms. They are not the same as COVID-19.

At this time, only public health laboratories can test for COVID-19. At this point, COVID-19 testing is recommended for people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 who:

  • Have been in areas with community spread.
  • Have been in close, prolonged contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
  • Have serious illness requiring hospitalization that appears to be pneumonia caused by a virus, but no other cause can be identified.

Staying well

How can I keep myself from getting sick with COVID-19?

​There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 as well as influenza and other illnesses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people or animals.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that you frequently touch.
  • Avoid non-essential travel to regions listed in CDC travel advisories​.

It is also important to keep your body resilient:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stay up-to-date on routine vaccines. This includes the flu vaccine. It is not too late to get a flu shot to protect yourself from the flu, which continues to cause illness in Oregon.

​If you get sick

What will happen to me if I get sick after exposure to COVID-19?

​If a healthcare provider thinks you may have COVID-19, he or she will first determine if you are well enough to stay home or if you need to go to a clinic or hospital. Healthcare providers may also work with local public health to arrange for testing for the virus. 

Testing​ will likely involve:

  • A nose swab and throat swab.
  • A routine blood sample.
  • Coughing up mucus, if possible.

If you are seen in a clinic or hospital, your health care provider may ask you to:

  • Put on a mask to limit spread of the virus.
  • Make sure you are not around other people.

Care providers may:

  • Show you to a private room.
  • Put on equipment to protect themselves such as:gowns,gloves,eye protection, ands​pecial masks.


There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. The goal is to support the person who is ill, supply oxygen if needed, and help lessen the symptoms until the immune system kicks in and kills the virus. Most people with COVID-19 appear to have mild disease that doesn’t require a medical visit. 

As with flu, most people can recover at home without problems. Those with fever and cough who get significant trouble breathing, or feel faint, or parents of a child who gets bluish color of the skin around the mouth should call promptly and arrange for medical evaluation or call 911.

If you are tested for COVID-19, staff from your local health department will call you. They will ask you for details about recent travel and people you have been around. Your care providers and public health staff will give you information about how to keep from spreading the virus to your family and friends.

Traveler healthI plan to travel outside of the United States soon. What should I do to protect myself? Should I cancel my trip?

​The CDC has travel advisories for COVID-19. These can change as new information becomes available. 

Before you start a trip, check CDC’s travel information for the most current advice.