COVID-19 - Novel Coronavirus Facts frequently asked questions

Topics: Worldwide, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
May 14, 2020

Canadian Red Cross volunteers wearing protective equipment.

Misinformation can be incredibly dangerous during any epidemic or emergency, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. If you would like to seek out more information on the novel coronavirus, the Canadian Red Cross recommends that you start with trusted sources of information such as the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada to find updated facts and statistics surrounding the virus.

What is COVID-19 – Novel coronavirus?

While the COVID-19 virus that was first found in late 2019 is commonly referred to as “the coronavirus,” a coronavirus is actually a family of viral illnesses that have been linked to everything from the common cold to the SARS pandemic of 2002-2003. The 2019 outbreak is a novel coronavirus, which means it is a new strain of virus that had not previously been seen in humans.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Coronavirus symptoms are not unlike what you would experience with other respiratory illnesses such as influenza or the common cold. While the severity of coronavirus symptoms can range and vary from person to person, signs of infection include: 

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • temperature equal to or over 38°C
  • feeling feverish
  • chills
  • fatigue or weakness
  • muscle or body aches
  • new loss of smell or taste
  • headache
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • feeling very unwell
Children tend to have abdominal symptoms and skin changes or rashes.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.

Complications from the virus can lead to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia. People with pre-existing medical conditions, small children, and the elderly are more vulnerable than others to the illness.

For the latest information, visit Public Health Agency of Canada

How does the coronavirus spread?

Much like other similar viruses, the COVID-19 coronavirus is most commonly spread to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks.
The virus may also spread when a person touches another person (i.e., a handshake) or a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
The virus can be spread to others from someone who’s infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who:

  • haven’t yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic)
  • never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)

 Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

What can I do to protect myself from the coronavirus?

The Canadian Red Cross encourages everyone to follow good hygiene practices and physical distancing as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the World Health Organization and your provincial or territorial Ministry of Health.

You are your own best defense and can take simple precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

Vaccination for COVID-19

Learn more about vaccines on our Vaccination for COVID-19 Frequently asked questions page

Follow public health measures

  • Avoid closed spaces, crowded places, close contact settings and close-range conversation or settings where there's:

    • singing
    • shouting
    • heavy breathing (for example, during exercise)
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering when you're in
    • public (including the outdoors) and it isn’t possible to keep a 2 metre distance.
    • shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household
  • Stay home and away from others if you feel sick.
  • Keep the number of people you have prolonged contact with as small as possible.
  • Avoid gathering in large groups, follow the guidelines for your local health authority for gathering sizes.
  • Talk to your employer about working at home, if possible.
  • Limit contact with those at risk of more severe illness, such as:
    • older adults
    • those with underlying medical conditions
    • those with compromised immune systems
  • Go outside to exercise.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from people who are not part of your household.
    • Household contacts (people you live with) don't need to distance from each other unless they're sick or have travelled in the last 14 days.

Hand and respiratory hygiene

 Maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene are very important to help reduce the risk of infection.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
    • If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • When coughing or sneezing:
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
    • dispose of any tissues you've used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands immediately afterwards
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

Do I need a mask to protect myself against COVID-19?

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a non-medical mask or face covering while out in public for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently adhere to physical distancing from others, particularly in crowded public settings such as stores and on public transportation.

 Visit to learn more about the use of masks
Masks alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19, so it is important to continue adhering to other public health measures, including frequent hand washing, physical distancing, and avoiding contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or feeling unwell, we encourage you to stay home and seek medical attention.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

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

Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

People of all ages can take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

To learn more, visit our tips for those at high risk of complications.


Is there a vaccine or antiviral treatment?

The Canadian Red Cross is encouraged by the news of COVID-19 vaccines being administered across the country and reminds people to continue to seek information from a trustworthy source, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and local and provincial health authorities.
Learn more about vaccines on our Vaccination for COVID-19 Frequently asked questions page

Learn more about COVID-19 treatments including authorized treatments, types of treatments, drugs, biologics, and on-going safety monitoring from Public Health Agency of Canada.  



Additional resources:

Official sources for information