Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERSSARS and now with this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, abbreviated COVID-19

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

What are the risks of COVID-19?

For confirmed cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. 

Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. The current COVID-19 data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups

How does it spread?

COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:

  • Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and particles that contain the virus.
  • Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
  • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them.

What do I need to know about COVID-19 variants?

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

If you think about a virus like a tree growing and branching out; each branch on the tree is slightly different than the others. By comparing the branches, scientists can label them according to the differences. These small differences, or variants, have been studied and identified since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. Those variants must be monitored more carefully.

Variants in the United States

The CDC is monitoring multiple variants; currently, there are four notable variants in the United States:

  • B.1.1.7 (Alpha): This variant was first detected in the United States in December 2020. It was initially detected in the United Kingdom.
  • B.1.351 (Beta): This variant was first detected in the United States at the end of January 2021. It was initially detected in South Africa in December 2020.
  • P.1 (Gamma): This variant was first detected in the United States in January 2021. P.1 was initially identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January.
  • B.1.617.2 (Delta): This variant was first detected in the United States in March 2021. It was initially identified in India in December 2020.

These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

So far, studies suggest that the current authorized vaccines work on the circulating variants. Scientists will continue to study these and other variants.

What’s the risk in West Virginia, in the U.S. and abroad?

For the latest information in West Virginia, visit the DHHR’s COVID-19 response page or call the state's COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or 304-341-1579 if from WVU and using out of state cell phone number. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about cases in the U.S. Visit the World Health Organization's Coronavirus Dashboard to learn more about the current global situation. 

What should I do if I'm fully vaccinated?

The CDC is offering guidance to those who have been fully vaccinated, including safe activities for you and your family. The CDC also offers tips on what you should keep doing to protect yourself and others. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as more is learned about COVID-19.

What are the emergency warning signs?

If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

What should I do if I'm experiencing symptoms? 

In the Morgantown area, contact your physician or call WVU Medicine’s line at 304-598-6000 (Option 4). Elsewhere, contact your physician, your local county health department or the WV DHHR hotline at 304-341-1579. You can also call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-887-4304. 

For information about testing

For WVU students and faculty, visit WVU Return to Campus for more information.

The DHHR hotline, 1-800-887-4304 or 304-341-1579 if from WVU and using out of state cell phone number, can also provide information about testing. 

Also, visit the CDC for the latest testing information, as well as an online coronavirus self-checker

Students on the Morgantown campus with health questions or concerns should contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. Student Health/UC Evansdale will be closed all Saturdays now through Aug. 8. Students on partner campuses should contact the Student Health Clinic or the local health department. 

When should I get tested? 

Duration:
WVU Medicine Health Report: COVID-19 - When best to test

What can I do to protect myself and others?

Protect Unvaccinated Family Members

Some people in your family need to continue to take steps to protect themselves from COVID-19, including:

  • Anyone not fully vaccinated, including children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated yet
  • People with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions

Protect Yourself and Others

Get Vaccinated

  • Authorized COVID-19 vaccines can help protect you from COVID-19.
  • You should get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.

Wear a mask

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).

Stay 6 feet away from others

  • Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
  • Outside your home: Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.

Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces

  • Being in crowds like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters puts you at higher risk for COVID-19.
  • Avoid indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors as much as possible.
    • If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • It’s especially important to wash:
      • Before eating or preparing food
      • Before touching your face
      • After using the restroom
      • After leaving a public place
      • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
      • After handling your mask
      • After changing a diaper
      • After caring for someone sick
      • After touching animals or pets
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • If you are wearing a mask: You can cough or sneeze into your mask. Put on a new, clean mask as soon as possible and wash your hands.
  • If you are not wearing a mask:
    • Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
    • Throw used tissues in the trash.
    • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean high touch surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, disinfect frequently touched surfaces
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection

Monitor your health daily

  • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
    • Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
  • Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

When should I quarantine?

You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus. You isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What if I’m planning to travel?

The CDC is offering a number of guidelines for travel. Travel guidance is also available for the WVU community on the Return to Campus site

How can I help fight stigma around COVID-19? 

Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.

What can I do to manage stress around COVID-19?

The CDC is offering healthy tips to cope with stress. WVU students can access support services through the WVU Carruth Center, and Health Sciences students can access services through Carruth's satellite office, BeWell. Faculty and staff can access the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program

What other guidance does WVU have for students, faculty, staff, etc.? 

As the University community makes the Return to Campus, a number of measures have been outlined for Public Health and Safety.

Key terms and glossary

COVID-19 has introduced the world to a whole new vocabulary of public health terms. We've compiled a list of some of the terms you may be hearing and reading.

Resources