As reported cases of COVID-19 continue to climb worldwide, the information about this new coronavirus is rapidly evolving. Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, offers one of the most important things he wants people to know about this virus.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that most of the infections with COVID-19 are mild,” Tosh SAID. “Most healthy people who become infected with this virus are going to have mild symptoms and aren’t going to have severe illness.”

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to the World Health Organization. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets transmitted via close contact (within 6 feet) with an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory droplets are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, says there are some simple ways to protect yourself from coronavirus.

“So the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from getting infected, No. 1, is to wash your hands. Really as simple as that sounds, that is the most effective way to prevent illness and infection. The second thing is if you do have symptoms, to practice what we call ‘respiratory etiquette.’ That means coughing or sneezing into your elbow, or into a tissue, and then washing your hands well afterward. We know viral particles that end up on your fingers and hands can be transmitted to other people, and, so, that’s one way to protect yourself and your family,” says Dr. Rajapakse.

She recommends washing hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds, frequently, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and anytime you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have access to soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub is a suitable alternative.

Another prevention tip: Stay home if you’re sick.

“The other main thing that we would encourage people is to stay home if you’re feeling ill with cough and fever especially. This avoids exposing people at school or at work to infection and illness,” says Dr. Rajapakse.



Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your local health care provider or hospital, and ask how best to be evaluated. Do not go to your health care provider or hospital without calling first.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19.