Note: All information on this module were sourced from the BC Centre for Disease Control website:
BC Centre for Disease Control Common Questions
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The disease caused by this new coronavirus has been named COVID-19. While many of the characteristics of COVID-19 are still unknown, mild to severe illness has been reported for confirmed cases.
Coronavirus is spread from an infected person through:
Droplet Contact: Some diseases can be transferred by infected droplets contacting surfaces of the eye, nose, or mouth. For example, large droplets that may be visible to the naked eye are generated when a person sneezes or coughs. These droplets typically spread only one to two metres and quickly fall to the ground. Influenza and SARS are two examples of diseases capable of being transmitted by droplet contact. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus can also be transmitted in this way.
Airborne transmission: This occurs when much smaller evaporated droplets or dust particles containing the microorganism float in the air for long periods of time. Transmission occurs when others breathe the microorganism into their throat or lungs. Examples of diseases capable of airborne transmission include measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission.
There have been instances of transmission before the person became sick or when a person's symptoms were so mild that they did not know they were sick. However, it is unclear if this contributes to significant spread of the virus in the population. Most people become ill from being in close contact with someone who shows symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, therefore transmitting the virus through droplets. We continuously review the evidence and update information regularly.
In addition to physical distancing, the most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. To help reduce your risk of infection:
If you are sick:
What is physical distancing?
Physical distancing is limiting close contact with other people to slow the spread of an infectious disease. An example of physical distancing is keeping about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed apart from others. Physical distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. Even though we are not sick, we need to make changes to our everyday routines to stop the spread of germs between people.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses including Influenza and the common cold. The most common symptoms include:
Less common symptoms include:
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Sometimes people with COVID-19 have mild illness, but their symptoms may suddenly worsen in a few days.
Fever: Average normal body temperature taken orally is about 37ºC. For more on normal body temperature and fevers, see HealthLinkBC's information for children age 11 and younger and for people age 12 and older. Infants less than three months of age who have a fever should be assessed by a health care provider.
Children have similar symptoms to adults, but are less likely to have fever, shortness of breath or cough. COVID-19 causes mild illness in the majority of cases in children.
Testing is available for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms. Infants under three months of age with a fever or symptoms should be assessed by a health care provider.
The B.C. COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool is also available for anyone that develops symptoms and can be used to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. Testing is especially important for groups that are more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, or people who care for these individuals.
Some symptoms can also be signs of other conditions. If you are unsure, contact your health care provider or call 8-1-1. If someone is having severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, having a hard time waking up, feeling confused or losing consciousness, you should seek emergency medical care by calling 9-1-1 or going to your nearest emergency department.
If you develop symptoms, you will need to self-isolate while you wait for your test results so you do not potentially spread illness to others. Those who get diagnosed with COVID-19 will need to self-isolate for at least 10 days from when their symptoms started.
Older people and people with a weakened immune system or underlying medical conditions are considered at higher risk of severe disease.
There have been instances of transmissions before the person became sick or the symptoms were so mild that the person did not know they were sick. However, it is unclear if this contributes to significant spread of the virus in the population. Most people become ill from being in close contact with someone who shows symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, therefore transmitting the virus through droplets. We continuously review the evidence and update information regularly.
If an individual has no symptoms, they do not require a test. In B.C., testing is generally not available through the provincial health care system for people without symptoms including routine screening for employment, travel, school, before surgery or for other health procedures. This advice may be different from other provinces or countries. In select situations, such as investigation into an outbreak, people without symptoms may be tested under the direction of a medical health officer or clinician.
If you are unsure whether you need testing, you can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else.
At this time, the available information suggests the incubation period is up to 14 days. The incubation period is the time from when a person is first exposed until symptoms appear.
If you develop cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, go to the testing page or use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment for COVID-19 testing by a physician, nurse practitioner or at a local collection centre. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to.
What is self-monitoring?
Self monitoring means you should be monitoring your health and the health of your children for symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Individuals who are self-monitoring are allowed to attend work and school and take part in regular activities.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is used to lower the chance of spreading infectious germs to other people by avoiding situations where someone could infect others. Self-isolation is one important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.
People at high-risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate as there is a small chance you can spread germs in the days before you feel sick. This is called an incubation period, the time between being exposed to an infection and when you start to feel sick.
You must stay at home, in a hotel or similar place, and avoid all contact with others.
A number of groups of people including international travellers returning to Canada, contacts of a COVID-19 case, and people with symptoms or who are positive for COVID-19 are required to self-isolate.
COVID-19 testing is done using samples collected by a nasopharyngeal swab (NP) or throat swab. The BCCDC Public Health Laboratory (PHL) has developed laboratory guidance for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. If your health care provider thinks you may have the new coronavirus, they will arrange for testing.
If you develop cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, visit the testing page or use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if you need further assessment for COVID-19 testing by a healthcare provider or at a local collection centre. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Information about specific medications, drugs and vaccines can be found on the Treatments page.
Many of the symptoms can be managed with home treatment such as drinking plenty of fluids, rest and using a humidifier or hot shower to ease a cough or sore throat. Most people recover from coronaviruses on their own. For people with more serious illness supportive care in or out of hospital may be needed.
An outbreak is declared when a certain number of people who share a common space are diagnosed with COVID-19 within a 14-day period. In some places, it only takes a single person getting COVID-19 for an outbreak to be declared. This is true for places where people are more likely to get very sick OR there are people at high risk of passing it on to people who might get very sick, such as in long-term care facilities. Usually a Medical Health Officer will declare an outbreak so that specific actions can be taken to prevent further spread of the disease.
A COVID-19 outbreak is generally considered over when 28 days (two full incubation periods) have passed from the last date a person was exposed to the virus, and no new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed. A Medical Health Officer may increase or decrease the length of time needed to declare an outbreak over.