COVID-19 Symptoms and Sickness

COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a virus not previously seen in humans. COVID-19 is highly contagious. People with COVID-19 who don't have any symptoms can spread the virus to other people. Learn how to protect yourself and others, and what to do if you are sick.

All Vermonters with even mild symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider to get tested. Your provider will test you at their office or refer you for testing nearby. If you don’t have a health care provider, call 2-1-1 to connect to care or contact the nearest federally qualified health center or one of Vermont's free & referral clinics.

Learn about symptoms
Symptoms include:
phone icon, reads "Symptoms"

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  • Fever (100.4 F or higher)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain or aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms may start 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. If you are having any symptoms of COVID-19, call your provider. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital.

Check your symptoms with CDC's Self Checker Tool. Not everyone infected with the COVID-19 virus has symptoms.

People Who Need to Take Extra Precautions

People at Increased Risk for Severe Illness

People Who may be more vulnerable

Our opportunities for better health begin in our families, neighborhoods, schools and jobs. Things like lack of access to medical care, healthy food or quality housing, are inequities that can make people more vulnerable for getting COVID-19 or having a more severe illness. 

People Who Need Extra Precautions

Supporting people who may be more vulnerable

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19

Most people with mild illness can recover at home. While there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, you should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take fever-reducing medication if needed.

If you or a family member are sick, follow these steps to care for your self and to help protect other people in your home and your community:

Isolate at home

  • Stay home, except to get medical care. Call ahead before visiting your health care provider. Anyone who does not have a health care provider can call 2-1-1 to be connected to care or contact the nearest federally qualified health center or one of Vermont's free & referral clinics.
  • Separate yourself from other people and pets. 
  • Monitor your symptoms. 
  • Wear a cloth face mask or covering when you're around people and pets.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water aren't available. 
  • Avoid sharing personal household items.
  • Clean all high-touch surfaces in your home daily. 
  • Get support from others. Stay in touch with family and friends by phone, email or online platform.

We strongly encourage you to enroll in Sara Alert, a secure monitoring and reporting text-based system to help you monitor symptoms.

CONTACT TRACING

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, someone from the Health Department will contact you to ask for your help with contact tracing. Contact tracing is used to provide education, support and guidance to people who are diagnosed with an infectious disease. It’s also used to identify people who have been in close contact with them, so they can take steps to stop the disease from spreading to others. Learn how contact tracing for COVID-19 works in Vermont.

Resources

Caring for Yourself at Home (CDC)
10 Ways to Manage Respiratory Symptoms at Home  (CDC)
Information on Breastfeeding if you Have COVID-19 (CDC)
What is isolation, quarantine and self-observation

How to Self-isolate for COVID-19
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What to do if you are diagnosed with COVID-19
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Caring for someone with COVID-19

Most people with mild illness can recover at home. While there is no specific treatment, someone sick with COVID-19 should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take fever-reducing medication if needed.

Resources

Caring for Someone at Home (link is external) (CDC)
Caring for Yourself at Home (link is external)(CDC)

Tips for Large Households or Extended Families Living in the Same Space
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What is isolation, quarantine and self-observation?
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Close contacts

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, the Health Department works them to identify their close contacts. Timeframe, nature of contact and other factors can influence who is determined a close contact. This is called contact tracing. The contact tracers call each close contact to offer health guidance and recommendations for quarantine.

Close contact means being within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, of someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19 during their infectious period. The infectious period starts two days before any symptoms began, or for people who haven't had symptoms, two days before they got tested, and continues until they are recovered. Close contact does not mean: being more than six feet away in the same indoor environment for a short period of time, walking by, or briefly being in the same room.

Here are some examples:

Examples of close contacts     Examples of not close contacts
You live in the same home     You were their cashier at the grocery store
You are intimate partners You are a pharmacist who gave the person medication
You rode in the same car while the person was infectious You were in front of the person in line at the store
You had dinner together while the person was infectious  You’re a coworker who briefly walked by to ask a question

What to do if you are a close contact of someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19
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Contact tracing
Contact tracing is used to provide education, support and guidance to people who are diagnosed with an infectious disease. It’s also used to identify people who have been in close contact with them, so they can take steps to stop the disease from spreading to others. Here's how contact tracing for COVID-19 works in Vermont.
 
If you test positive for COVID-19, you will get a call from the Health Department. A trained public health worker, called a contact tracer, will give you guidance to stay home and away from other people until you recover. This stops the virus from spreading to other people. They will answer any questions you may have and see if you need help getting resources to stay home.

They will ask you questions about your symptoms, activities, and who you may have come into contact with during a specific period of time. This information is only used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Based on your answers, the contact tracer will help you identify any close contacts. Generally, these are people you were within 6 feet of, for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, during the time you were infectious (contagious). Those people may have been exposed to the virus, which means they have a greater chance of getting it themselves, and then of spreading it to others.

Examples of close contacts     Examples of not close contacts
You live in the same home     You were their cashier at the grocery store
You are intimate partners You are a pharmacist who gave the person medication
You rode in the same car while the person was infectious You were in front of the person in line at the store
You had dinner together while the person was infectious  You’re a coworker who briefly walked by to ask a question

If you are identified as a close contact, a contact tracer will call you and tell you the date when you may have been exposed. They will give you guidance to stay home and away from others for a certain amount of time. They will ask you to watch for symptoms and ask if you need any help while staying home.

It can be stressful and overwhelming to learn you may have been exposed to COVID-19, but you can make sure your questions are answered and follow the health guidance to help prevent the virus from spreading. Here are more details on what to do if you’re a close contact.

If you think that you might be a close contact but didn't get a call from the Health Department, you may take precautions by quarantining for 14 days since the last day you were in contact with that person, and get tested on day 7 or after if you have not had any symptoms.

It’s important to answer any call from the Health Department and to answer questions as completely as possible to make sure everyone knows whatA contact tracer calling a person exposed to COVID-19 steps to take to prevent further spread of the virus.

The Health Department only uses a live person for contact tracing and never uses anything that sounds like a “robo” (computer-generated voice) call for this service. They will attempt to leave a message asking you to return a call from the Vermont Department of Health.

If you have tested positive or are a close contact, contact tracers will ask if you want to enroll in our Sara Alert program during the phone call. Sara Alert is a free and secure system that sends daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19 by email, text or automated or live person phone call. Depending on the symptoms you report, the Health Department may reach out to you to give guidance and next steps. Sara Alert is a symptom monitoring tool. It is not GPS-based, so it does not monitor your movements.

Learn what happens at the Health Department when someone tests postive for COVID-19 What happens at the Health Department when someone tests positive for COVID-19

Using Key Dates to Determine Isolation and Quarantine Timeline

Contact tracers use key dates to determine the amount of time you need to stay home. It can sound complicated and everyone’s situation is different. Your contact tracer will walk you through it.

For people who test positive:

  • Symptom onset date – the first day you noticed symptoms. This is the date contact tracers will use to determine your timeline. (If you haven't had symptoms, contact tracers will use the date you got tested.)
  • Date of exposure – the date you were exposed to COVID-19. Contact tracers may not be able to know the exact date you were exposed, but they will narrow down the time period.
  • Incubation period – the amount of time it takes after being exposed, to when you first notice symptoms. If you didn’t get symptoms, the incubation is the period of time between exposure and when you test positive for COVID-19. The incubation period can range from 2-14 days after being exposed. Contact tracers will ask about your activities in the last 14 days to get an idea of where and when you may have been exposed.
  • Infectious period – the period of time when you have a high chance of spreading the virus to others. The infectious period starts two days before you get symptoms (or if you don’t have symptoms, the two days before you got tested) and continues until you have recovered. People you had close interactions with during this time are at risk and may be considered ‘close contacts.’
  • Isolation – the period of time where you will stay home and away from other people until you recover. Isolation starts as soon as you notice symptoms (or if you haven't had symptoms, it starts as soon as you get a positive test result).
  • End isolation – you can end home isolation when you have recovered. Generally, this means at least 10 days have passed since first noticed symptoms, symptoms have improved, and you are fever-free for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication. If you haven't had symptoms, generally, you can end isolation 10 days after you were tested.

For close contacts:

  • Date of exposure – the date you were exposed to COVID-19. This is when you were last in contact with someone who tested positive while they were infectious.
  • Quarantine – this means staying home and away from others for 14 days to stop the virus from spreading to other people. Day 0 is the last day you were in close contact with the person who tested positive.
  • End quarantine – close contacts can end quarantine after 14 days if they didn’t get sick. See scenarios from the CDC to determine when you can end quarantine and be around others. In Vermont, you may get tested during your quarantine period if you never had any symptoms. Call your provider to arrange for testing on or after day 7. Stay in quarantine until you get your results. If the results are negative, and you still don’t have any symptoms, you can end your quarantine.

Want to learn more about contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a proven public health tool that has been used for decades to slow or stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Recovery

People with COVID-19 can stop home isolation when they have recovered. This means they have met the following conditions.

If you had symptoms, recovered is when all three of these have happened (unless otherwise instructed by your health care provider):

  1. It has been at least 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medication, and
  2. Other symptoms have improved, and
  3. At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.  

If you did not have any symptoms, you can leave home and be with others after:

  • 10 days have passed since the date you had your positive test (unless otherwise instructed by your health care provider). 

Your health care provider will follow CDC guidelines. In all cases, follow the guidance of your health care provider and the Health Department. The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your health care provider and the Health Department. Most people do not need a test to determine when they can be around others again. However, if your health care provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.

After stopping home isolation, continue to follow the general precautions to help keep the virus from spreading: keep a 6-foot distance from people you don't live with, wear a face mask or covering when you can't keep 6 feet apart, wash your hands often, and stay home if you are sick.

It is not yet known if people who recover from COVID-19 can get infected again. Research is ongoing. Therefore, if you have recovered from COVID-19 and develop new symptoms of COVID-19, isolate and contact a health care provider.

People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their blood plasma. This is the body’s immune response to the virus. Plasma may be helpful to people sick with COVID-19. But currently, plasma donations are only being done experimentally. In the future, plasma could be used to treat serious cases of COVID-19.

The Red Cross is looking for people who are fully recovered from COVID-19 and may be able to donate plasma. If you are fully recovered from a COVID-19 diagnosis that was confirmed by a lab test and would like to donate your plasma, fill out the form on the Red Cross website.

About the Virus and Its Spread

Coronaviruses are a type of virus that are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. There are many kinds of coronaviruses including some that cause respiratory illnesses, like the common cold.

Sometimes, coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick – and become a new human coronavirus. An example is the newly discovered coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

COVID-19 most commonly spreads during close contact through respiratory droplets

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are near each other (within about 6 feet).

When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. Another person can become infected if they inhale the droplets, or if droplets land in their nose or mouth.

COVID-19 can sometimes spread through airborne transmission

As the respiratory droplets travel further from the person with COVID-19, the concentration of these droplets decreases. Larger droplets fall out of the air due to gravity. Smaller droplets and particles spread apart in the air.

It is possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted under certain circumstances when very small respiratory droplets remain airborne. These small particles can infect someone who is more than 6 feet away.

This airborne transmission is uncommon, but has occurred in situations such as indoors when a person with COVID-19 had symptoms and been coughing for longer than 30 minutes. Other examples include shouting, singing or exercising, or being in a building without proper ventilation that allowed a buildup of respiratory droplets or particles.

COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces

Respiratory droplets can also land on surfaces and objects. It is possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads. This can be prevented by washing your hands before you touch your face, mouth or eyes.