Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.
COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and more rarely, these can then spread from person to person through close contact.
There have been 2 other specific coronaviruses that have spread from animals to humans and which have caused severe illness in humans. These are the:
severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV)
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS CoV)
Symptoms of COVID-19
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known incubation period for this disease. We are currently investigating if the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. While experts believe that it is possible, it is considered less common.
Symptoms have included:
pneumonia in both lungs
In severe cases, infection can lead to death.
Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a health care provider based on symptoms and are confirmed through laboratory tests.
Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own.
If you are concerned about your symptoms, you should self-monitor and consult your health care provider. They may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms.
For travellers arriving in Canada
Federal and provincial public health leaders have recommended that all travellers from outside of Canada self-isolate for 14 days. These efforts will contribute to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
Upon return to Canada:
You will be asked if you have a cough, difficulty breathing or fever. If you have any of these symptoms, you will be given instructions on the next steps you are required to take. If you do not have any of these symptoms, you will be asked to do the following:
Self-isolate for 14 days after your return to Canada. Some provinces and territories may have specific recommendations for certain groups such as health care workers. Self-isolate means:
stay home and keep your distance from others
do not have visitors, especially older adults, or those with medical conditions who are at a higher risk of developing serious illness
Monitor your health for fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing.
If you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing within 14 days:
Continue to isolate yourself from others
Immediately call a health care professional or public health authority and:
describe your symptoms and travel history
follow their instructions carefully
How coronavirus spreads
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
Do you think you might have COVID-19? Use our self-assessment tool to find out what to do.
Canadians should continue to think ahead about the actions that they can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, including:
being prepared in case you or a family member become ill
following the latest travel advice from federal and provincial public health leaders:
avoiding all non-essential travel, including cruise ships
self-isolating, and monitoring for symptoms (cough, fever or difficulty breathing) for 14 days if you have travelled outside of Canada
reducing contact with others by following the guidance for self-monitoring, self-isolating, or isolating
practicing social distancing and proper hygiene
wearing masks, if necessary
Self-monitor, self-isolate and isolate
There is a difference between advice to self-monitor, advice to self-isolate and advice to isolate. It is important to note these measures are in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Links to Government Services:
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