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Diseases & Topics

Coronavirus Infections

Coronaviruses are common viruses that most people get at some time in their life. Most coronaviruses that infect humans cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses. Young children are most likely to get infected. However, you can have multiple infections in your lifetime. Most of the coronaviruses that infect humans spread from an infected person to others through coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands. These viruses may also be spread by touching contaminated objects or surfaces then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water,
  • not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and
  • avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

If you have an illness caused by human coronaviruses, you can help protect others by:

  • staying home while you are sick,
  • avoiding close contact with others,
  • covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and
  • keeping objects and surfaces clean and disinfected.

Learn more about good health manners, handwashing, and other things you can do to keep illness from spreading.

Laboratory tests can be done to confirm whether your illness may be caused by human coronaviruses. However, these tests are not used very often because people usually have mild illness. Also, testing may be limited to a few specialized laboratories.

There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with illness caused by a coronavirus will recover on their own. However, some things can be done to relieve your symptoms, such as taking pain and fever medications (Caution: Aspirin should not be given to children.), and using a room humidifier or taking a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.

If you are sick, you should:

  • drink plenty of liquids, and
  • stay home and rest.

If you are concerned about your symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider. Although the illnesses caused by coronaviruses are usually mild to moderate, some coronaviruses can cause severe illness. The coronavirus SARS-CoV caused a global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and another coronavirus called "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus" (MERS-CoV) was identified in 2012 as the cause of respiratory illness in people. Learn more about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

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