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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some will become seriously ill and require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age. 

COVID-19 Symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person, in different age groups, and depending on the COVID-19 variant.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and common cold and may include one or more of the following:

  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • temperature equal to or more than 38
  • feeling feverish
  • chills
  • fatigue or weakness
  • muscle or body aches
  • new loss of smell or taste
  • headache
  • abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting

If you don’t feel well or if you have any symptoms, even if mild, assume you may have COVID-19. Immediately isolate at home and away from others. Check with your local public health authority for more advice, including where and how to get tested if recommended.

You may be infected but not have symptoms. However, you can still spread the virus to others. You may:

  • develop symptoms later (be pre-symptomatic)
  • never develop symptoms (be asymptomatic)

If you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, contact your local public health authority for advice on what to do next.

Long-term Symptoms

Some people who become infected with COVID-19 may experience long-term symptoms, even after they recover from the initial infection. This is sometimes called Post COVID-19 Condition or Long COVID.

Studies are underway to further understand what causes Long COVID-19 and how to diagnose and treat it. If you think you have this condition, talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage your symptoms.

To learn more about long-term symptoms, visit:

COVID-19 Myths

The vaccine isn’t safe and will make me sick. I can protect myself with supplements.

“I am a pharmacist, I know the vaccine is safe and won’t make me sick while the virus can affect anyone, not just the young and elderly. Supplements are not a cure. To be a good role model, I get immunized which reduces my risk of getting sick as well as infecting other people.”

“As a firefighter, I can be called to an emergency at any time. Getting immunized lets me do my job to keep people safe. The short-term minor aches and tiredness is nothing compared to being sick, and off work for who knows how long.”

Only the very young, very old and people who are already unwell get really sick.

“I had COVID-19 while unvaccinated even though I was healthy and in my twenties. It led to being in hospital, was expensive and I had to miss my university graduation. I still get post-COVID symptoms. I now get immunized to manage my health, so I don’t miss out again.”

The COVID-19 vaccine has caused more deaths than COVID-19 itself.

“Since their introduction in December 2020, COVID-19 vaccines have reduced deaths due to the pandemic by at least 57%, saving more than 1.4 million lives in Europe alone.”

The vaccine changes my DNA.

“The vaccine delivers instructions to teach the body’s immune system how to make a protein that fights COVID-19. After it does this it immediately breaks down and it never enters the nucleus, where DNA is kept in cells.”

Immunization and Prevention

There are several strategies to prevent COVID-19 infection. The most important is vaccinations.

Immunizations

Immunization for COVID-19 help protect you and others from getting COVID-19 and from developing serious outcomes including death. There are several immunizations available in Canada and research around vaccinations, including booster shots, is continuously evolving.

For your health and well-being, it is important to stay up to date with your COVID-19 immunizations and booster shots.

For additional information about COVID-19 immunizations visit:

Other Prevention Strategies

In addition to vaccinations, there are other things you can do to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 or spreading it to others:

  • Wear a well-constructed and fitted mask. Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by containing your respiratory particles and prevent or reduce the amount of infectious respiratory particles you inhale.
  • Practice social distancing (6 feet distance).
  • Stay home if you are unwell or test positive for COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands properly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water often.
  • Do not shake hands or hug.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, including phones.
  • In general, keep your body and immune system in the best possible shape by getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting outside and enjoying some vitamin D from the sunlight.
  • If you smoke, vape or use a water pipe, it is an especially good time to quit. COVID-19 disrupts the immune system, which is already weakened with smoke.

To learn more about COVID-19 prevention and risk, including information about COVID-19 mask use, visit Health Canada – Prevention and Risks

Diagnosis

If you believe you have COVID-19, the first step is to get a test to diagnose it. There are 3 types of tests:

  1. Self-Testing (rapid antigen test) is safe, gentle, easy to use, and provides results within 15 minutes. It only takes a few seconds to collect a sample using a swab that goes into the soft part of each nostril. The tests can be done almost anywhere, at any time. If you are experiencing mild cold-like symptoms including cough, sore throat or sneezing without fever, it is recommended that you stay home, use rapid antigen testing and self-isolate if you test positive.
  2. PCR Testing detects the presence of viral RNA. It is very accurate and efficient. This test can detect a COVID-19 infection even before you become infectious, allowing for early isolation.
  3. Antibody Testing (serology) does not diagnose a current COVID-19 infection. A positive serology (blood) test means you have antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19, either because you had a COVID-19 infection, you were vaccinated against COVID-19, or both. The test cannot tell how long ago you may have been infected or determine if you’re protected from reinfection.