COVID-19 – What It Is, Symptoms & Prevention

What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 (or as it is sometimes called, coronavirus 19) is a virus that can cause a wide range of respiratory symptoms ranging from mild viral like illness (runny nose, cough)  to more extreme symptoms of significant shortness of breath and chest pain. It’s most serious complication is respiratory failure. People can also be asymptomatic carriers (do not display any symptoms) of the virus but can still be spreading the virus during the asymptomatic phase.

The virus has now spread to over 200 countries globally with close to 1,000,000 cases and over 50,000 deaths (April 2, 2020). 

How is COVID-19 spread?

It is spread primarily by:

  • Respiratory droplets when one coughs/sneezes
  • Person-to-person contact, e.g., shaking hands
  • Contact with a surface where the virus is present  

The virus ultimately enters the body through the touching of one's eyes, nose or mouth.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Many people who contract COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, similar to the initial symptoms of a cold or the flu. However, approximately 20% of people contracting the disease will have more severe symptoms, such as: 

  • fever 
  • cough 
  • difficulty breathing (shortness of breath) 

What does COVID-19 mean for people living with lung disease? 

People with lung disease are among those who are at the highest risk of developing more serious symptoms due to COVID-19. They are at greater risk of experiencing poor outcomes, hospitalization and the need for intensive care.

If you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or believe you have otherwise been exposed to COVID-19, or are confirmed to have this infection, stay home and contact your primary care provider and/or respirologist for advice right away. 

If you have recently travelled from an area that has known cases of COVID-19, you must isolate yourself for 14 days. Call your primary care provider and/or respirologist for further advice. If you have significant symptoms, call the designated COVID-19 number in your province to arrange for testing. In Alberta call 811.

Does COVID-19 only affect older people?

People of all ages are at risk of contracting COVID-19. While seniors and individuals with underlying health conditions may be more likely to develop serious or life-threatening illness, the virus can be deadly for people of all ages.

What can I do to avoid contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others if I do get it? 

It is extremely important that those with lung health issues take every precaution to reduce the risk of getting sick with the disease and to prevent others from contracting it. It is also important to understand that an infected person may not display any symptoms but can still spread the disease to others.

The situation is evolving rapidly and therefore it is important to keep up to date on advisories, recommendations and restrictions issued by the municipal, provincial and federal governments and follow their directions. Overall actions you need to personally take include:

  • STAY HOME to avoid exposure and avoid all non-essential travel. Go out for essential reasons only, such as grocery shopping and getting necessary medications. Where possible have friends and family do those things for you. 
  • If you do leave your home for essential reasons, practice social or physical distancing by keeping at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others. 
  • Do not visit family or friends who do not live with you and do not have them visit you.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick or have symptoms, even if minor. 
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds, especially when returning home from a store, etc. When unable to wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, throw the tissue in the trash and then wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.
  • Ensure that you have adequate supplies and medications (at least one month). 

What else can I do to deal with the current COVID-19 Pandemic?

  • Maintain your emotional well-being. Try to understand any anxiety you might have and the causes. For example: uncertainty about the illness and the impact it might have on you and your family; financial concerns; isolation; forced family togetherness; symptom management; etc. Talk to family and friends about your concerns.
  • Be informed but not “over-informed”. Take a break from the news.  
  • Maintain a routine. Have a daily/weekly schedule. 
  • Exercise and eat well.
  • Explore new things or pursue a hobby.
  • Engage with others - social distancing does not mean social isolation. Stay connected with family, friends and colleagues by phone, text, email, Facebook, Instagram, Facetime or other.

Where do I find up-to-date information about COVID-19? 

NATIONAL - Canadian Government   

ALBERTA - Alberta Health Services , Alberta Government 



Page Last Updated: 03/11/2021