Do you have questions about COVID-19 (also known as 2019-nCoV or the Novel Coronavirus)?

Below you will find the answers you need to the frequently asked questions we receive about COVID-19.

*PLEASE NOTE: All information cited below is gathered from reputable sources including, Health Canada, Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Please continue to reference these sources for the most up-to-date information available on the rapidly evolving status of COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (also know as 2019-nCov or the 2019 Novel Coronavirus), is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Learn more about COVID-19 online by visiting reputable resources such as:

What is a novel coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified.

What is the source of COVID-19?

Chinese health authorities were the first to post the full genome of COVID-19 in GenBank, the NIH genetic sequence database, and in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) portal, an action which has facilitated detection of this virus.

COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus, like MERS and SARS, all of which have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. and Canadian patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.

How does the COVID-19 virus spread?

The COVID-19 virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. Learn what is known about the spread of COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 the same as the MERS-CoV or SARS virus?

No. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats.

The recently emerged COVID-19 is not the same as the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS); however, genetic analyses suggest this virus emerged from a virus related to SARS. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

How can I help protect myself from COVID-19?

Visit Health Canada's website to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 infection available online.

Visit Health Canada's website to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Gastrointestinal disease is possible for young infants. Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and can include:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • a general feeling of being unwell

Although rare, other types of coronavirus infections cause illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) can produce more severe illnesses such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, kidney failure, or even death.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact.

If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your local public health department to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

What should healthcare professionals and health departments do?

For recommendations and guidance on patients under investigation; infection control, including personal protective equipment guidance; home care and isolation; and case investigation, visit Health Canada's website.

What is Health Canada doing about COVID-19?

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and Health Canada will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available. Health Canada works 24/7 to protect people’s health. It is Health Canada’s job to be concerned and move quickly whenever there is a potential public health problem. More information about Health Canada’s response to COVID-19 is available on Health Canada's website.

Am I at risk for COVID-19 infection in Canada?

This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on Health Canada's website and Infection Prevention and Control Canada’s website.

Has anyone in Canada been infected with COVID-19?

Yes. The first infection with COVID-19 in the Canada was reported on January 27, 2020.

See the current COVID-19 case count within Canada by visiting Health Canada's website and Infection Prevention and Control Canada’s website.

See the current COVID-19 global case count by visiting the World Health Organization's Interactive Map or the Johns Hopkins CSSE Interactive Map

Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?

There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads.

Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS and SARS). COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS than MERS, but both are beta coronaviruses with their origins in bats.

While we don’t know for sure that COVID-19 will behave the same way as SARS and MERS, we can use the information from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in Canada or the US associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on Health Authority websites as it becomes available.

Is it safe to travel to China or other countries where COVID-19 cases have occurred?

The situation is evolving. Stay up to date with Health Canada’s travel health notices related to this outbreak. These notices will be updated as more information becomes available.

What if I recently traveled to China and got sick?

If you were in China and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Avoid travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.