COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

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COVID-19 Symptoms

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common COVID-19 symptoms include fever, chills, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, body aches, headaches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, as well as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary based on individuals, variants, and vaccination status. For more information, click here.

What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?

The most common symptoms of the Omicron variant are nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, and sneezing.

Some people experience other symptoms like fever, aches, fatigue, nausea, and an upset stomach.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that variants of the COVID-19 virus will continue to emerge. For the most updated information on variants, visit their website.

What are the early symptoms of COVID-19?

Common early symptoms of COVID-19 are loss of taste or smell, fever, cough, and fatigue.

Is fever/headache/sore throat/coughing a symptom of COVID-19?

Fever, headache, sore throat, and coughing may be symptoms of COVID-19. However, sometimes these symptoms are from other illnesses like colds or allergies. Taking a test will confirm if your symptoms are caused by COVID-19. For a full list of possible symptoms, visit our COVID-19 Symptoms page.

How long does it take to develop COVID-19 symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 can develop anywhere from 2 to 14 days after being in contact with the virus.

Can you have COVID-19 and RSV at the same time?

Yes, you can be simultaneously infected with COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

How do you know if you have COVID-19, RSV, or the flu?

COVID-19, RSV, and influenza are each caused by a respiratory virus and have similar symptoms. Testing is the best way to determine which virus, or viruses, you have contracted.
COVID-19 Testing

How do you know if you have COVID-19?

COVID-19, RSV, and influenza are each caused by a respiratory virus and have similar symptoms. Testing is the best way to determine which virus, or viruses, you have contracted.

When is the best time to take a COVID-19 test?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking a test as soon as you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you do not have symptoms but know that you were exposed to the virus, you should wait five days after exposure to take a test.

What is the difference between a PCR test and a rapid antigen test?

There are several differences between PCR and rapid antigen tests.
Funeral services:
Administered by a healthcare provider
Sent to a laboratory for analysis
Highly accurate
Rapid antigen tests:
Can be done at home
Provide results in minutes
Are less accurate than PCR tests for asymptomatic people
Check out this article for more information on COVID-19 tests.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

There are low and no-cost COVID-19 testing sites in every state. You can access testing at pharmacies, health centers, and designated testing locations.

Where can I get at-home COVID-19 test kits?

Free tests can be ordered from USPS. Free test kits are also available at health clinics and Medicare-certified rural clinics.

You can purchase at-home COVID-19 test kits from retail stores, pharmacies, and online.

What is the best at-home COVID-19 test kit?

You should use a reliable test kit. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has published a list of authorized COVID-19 test kits that meet strict standards for accuracy. The list includes additional information and details to help you determine which test is best for you.

Are at-home COVID-19 tests accurate?

At-home COVID-19 tests have an accuracy rate of approximately 80%.

The accuracy of at-home test kits can be affected by several factors, like symptoms, how precisely you followed the test instructions, and the expiry date.

Can allergies cause a positive COVID-19 test result?

Allergies do not cause a positive COVID-19 test result. To get a positive test result, there must be COVID-19 viral genetic material or antigens in your system.

Can other respiratory viruses cause a positive COVID-19 test result?

No, other respiratory viruses cannot cause you to test positive for COVID-19. You get a positive test result when viral genetic material or antigens from COVID-19 are detected.

You can test positive for more than one virus at a time.

Can you continue to test positive for COVID-19 after you have recovered?

Yes, you might continue to test positive for COVID-19 for up to three months after infection.
COVID-19 Treatment

How do I treat COVID-19 at home?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people can safely manage their COVID-19 symptoms at home using over-the-counter medications. For more details regarding COVID-19 treatment, visit our COVID-19 Treatment page.

What is the best medicine to take if you have COVID-19?

There are currently three antiviral medications approved in the United States, and they are Veklury, Paxlovid, and Lagevrio. These medications help reduce the severity and duration of a COVID-19 infection.

Visit the FDA website to learn more about antiviral medications and other treatment options.

Where do I get medication to treat COVID-19?

Approved medications to treat COVID-19 are available from your family doctor, pharmacies, and health clinics.

Use the online Treatment Locator tool to help you access medication close to you.

What helps with COVID-19-related nausea and upset stomach?

Doctors recommend treating gastrointestinal symptoms of COVID-19, like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, with hydration, bland foods, and rest.

When should I get medical treatment for COVID-19?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for antiviral medication to help decrease the severity and duration of your illness.

For more information on how and when to obtain treatment for COVID-19, visit our Treatment webpage.

When should I seek urgent medical care for COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you seek immediate medical treatment if you have any of the following symptoms:
Difficulty breathing
Pain or pressure in your chest
Unable to stay awake or difficulty waking up
Feeling confused
Skin, lips or nail beds that appear paler than normal, gray, or blue-colored
COVID-19 Vaccines

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

United States residents aged six months and up can get free COVID-19 vaccinations in their community at health clinics, pharmacies, and medical offices.

A link to the federal Vaccine Finder tool can be found in our Vaccine Information page.

What is the best vaccine to get for COVID-19?

Each approved vaccine in the United States offers protection against COVID-19. The vaccines have met strict standards for efficacy and safety. An overview of each vaccine can be found on the FDA website here.

When are you considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19?

You are considered fully vaccinated after you have received all the recommended doses and boosters of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommendations for booster shots may change over time, and you can get the latest information directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are considered safe and are approved by the FDA.

Vaccines undergo rigorous testing before they are approved. After vaccines are made available to the public, they continue to be closely monitored for adverse reactions, side effects, and efficacy.

Click here to learn more about vaccine safety.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause a positive test result?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots do not cause a positive result when you take a test to confirm a current infection. If you take an antibody test, you may test positive.

What is in the COVID-19 vaccine?

Each vaccine is comprised of different ingredients, all of which have been reviewed for safety. The vaccines approved for use in the United States do NOT include any live virus.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the ingredient details of each approved vaccine.
COVID-19 Prevention

How can I prevent getting COVID-19?

Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to avoid getting COVID-19.

Additional strategies to prevent contracting COVID-19 include:
Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
Wearing a high-quality mask, like an N95 or KN95 mask, when in close contact with others
Washing your hands frequently
Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Improving air ventilation in indoor spaces
Socializing outside when it is safe to do so
Disinfecting high-touch areas regularly
Check out this article for more information on preventing COVID-19 infections.

Does wearing a mask protect me from COVID-19?

Wearing a mask can protect you from getting COVID-19. A well-fitted high-quality mask, like an N95 or KN95, helps filter out particles as you breathe. This makes it harder for the virus to enter your body through your nose or mouth.

For more information, read the Mayo Clinic’s comprehensive article on masks.

Where can I get an N95 mask?

In the United States, you can get free N95 masks from pharmacies, health clinics, and community organizations. Masks are also available for purchase from local and online retailers. For more information on how to get masks from a location near you, visit our State Resources and Federal Resources webpages.
COVID-19 General Information

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

COVID-19 is a virus that spreads through the respiratory droplets of an infected person. If you come into contact with those droplets, you may become infected with the virus. The virus enters your body through your mouth, nose, and eyes.

The World Health Organization cautions that you may be exposed to the virus through close contact with an infected person, being in an unventilated indoor environment with an infected person, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Is COVID-19 a virus or a bacteria?

COVID-19 is a virus that contains genetic information. Viruses are contagious and can spread. Bacterial illnesses are caused by single-celled organisms that enter your body and multiply. Common bacterial illnesses include food poisoning, strep throat, and other infections.

Click here to learn more about the differences between viruses and bacteria.

How long can the COVID-19 virus survive on surfaces?

The COVID-19 virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. It can survive on softer surfaces, like cardboard or fabrics, for up to 24 hours. The virus can be killed by disinfecting surfaces.

This article from MPH Online explains how the virus is affected by different surfaces.

How long does the COVID-19 virus stay in the air?

Aerosols, also called respiratory droplets, containing the COVID-19 virus can stay in the air for  up to three hours. Good ventilation and airflow can help decrease the concentration of the virus.

When is COVID-19 most contagious?

People are most contagious during the first five days of infection, even when asymptomatic.

Some COVID-19 variants are more contagious than others. Yale Medicine reports that, as of early 2023, the Omicron variant XBB.1.5 is the most infectious to date.

How long does COVID-19 immunity last?

Medical News Today estimates that COVID-19 antibodies obtained from infection or vaccination continue to provide protection for a period of a few months to over a year. Even with COVID-19 antibodies, people will have reduced immunity to new variants.

Can you get COVID-19 more than once?

Yes, you can get COVID-19 more than once. New variants are the biggest risk factor for repeat infections.

Click here to learn more about reinfection.

How do I find out about current COVID-19 rates?

The World Health Organization has an online dashboard with global statistics that are updated regularly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also tracks and publishes national COVID-19 levels via their COVID Data Tracker.

What are the COVID-19 rates in my community/county/state?

COVID-19 cases can vary significantly across the United States. You can find the levels of COVID-19 in your area using the COVID-19 Integrated County View tool.
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