2 min read
A smartphone displaying coronavirus information.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are respiratory illnesses, which include the common cold and more serious illnesses such as the Sudden Acute Respiratory Illness (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The word corona means something suggesting a crown, which is the shape of the virus.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends contacting a health provider if you have fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you develop emergency warning signs, seek medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include the following:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion or inability to arouse
  • bluish lips or face

The CDC notes that this list is not all-inclusive and recommends consulting your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning. If you have symptoms, report to your health care provider to get tested and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Who is vulnerable?

COVID-19 is most serious for senior citizens, people with compromised immune and weak respiratory systems, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

If you fall into one of these categories, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Stock up on supplies. Supplies include food and water, over-the-counter medicines, tissues, and other things you might need to care for yourself at home.
  • Create an emergency plan. Have a plan in place in case you need someone to help you get to a hospital quickly.
  • Stay in touch with people. Let people know if you get sick or need help.
  • Don’t leave the house. If you are vulnerable and you are in a community with COVID-19 cases, don’t go out unless you have to.
  • Avoid public surfaces. Don’t touch high-contact surfaces and follow all ordinary precautions.

While children are not listed as among the most vulnerable, the World Health Organization is advising that if schools are closed, care and attention should be paid to keeping children’s lives normal and safe. This means continuing their education, ensuring that they have safe care, and soothing their fears.


The CDC advises that people practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing means not going into crowded places, not traveling unless necessary, not shaking hands or hugging, and limiting visits to senior citizens, especially those in long-term care facilities. The CDC also recommends the following prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly for at least 20 seconds, front and back, and around the nails. Use a scrub brush.
  • If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Clean screens, keyboards, doorknobs, and other things that are touched regularly.
  • Have good ventilation in workspaces.
  • Don’t touch things and then touch your face.
  • If you are sick, wear a face mask if you have to go out. If you are not sick, you do not need a face mask. Leave face mask supplies for those who need them.


For more information on COVID-19, visit the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website or the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website.

Did you find this helpful?