What is Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. The virus can spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

As with other respiratory illnesses, COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms but for some people, it can be more severe and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties and can even be fatal.

Symptoms can include:

  • fever (a temperature of 37.5˚C or higher) or chills
  • cough
  • loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • runny or blocked nose
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • loss of appetite

Call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency, such as difficulty breathing at rest or chest pain.

What causes COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, a type of coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections. This can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread through:

  • direct close contact with a person while they are infectious
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

COVID-19 may also spread through touching objects or surfaces like doorknobs or tables, mobile phones, stair rails, elevator buttons that have droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose, eyes or face.

Who is most at risk?

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19.

However, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or people with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Make sure any chronic conditions are managed or under control so you are as healthy as possible. Talk to your GP about how you can do this.

How can I prevent COVID-19?

You can take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19. For example, by:

  • get vaccinated against COVID-19
  • stay home when you are unwell
  • practice good hand hygiene
  • cover coughs and sneezes and wipe down surfaces
  • wear a mask when required or when you can't physically distance.

Find out more on how to prevent COVID-19 on our protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 page.