What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an illness caused by the recently discovered novel (new) coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. SARS-CoV-2 is a new type of coronavirus that is now a pandemic affecting countries around the world.

There are currently three vaccines approved for use in the United States under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the prevention of COVID-19: Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer. Project ACHIEVE is proud to serve as a study site for the Johnson and Johnson Phase III vaccine study and the AstraZeneca Phase III vaccine study. Other vaccines and therapies are currently under evaluation for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 illness.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 illness, and who experiences them?

People with SARS-CoV-2 infection have reported a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe illness, and some report no symptoms at all.  This means some people with SARS-CoV-2 infection do not develop COVID-19 illness. If symptoms occur, they typically appear 2-14 days after exposure and commonly include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell, among others symptoms.  Most people recover on their own but some will experience pneumonia, other severe complications, hospitalization, or death.

Researchers are starting to examine why some people with SARS-CoV-2 infection have no COVID-19 symptoms while others experience symptoms ranging from mild to moderate to severe.  Early reports suggest that people who are at increased risk for severe illness are adults ages 50 and older (people 65 and older are at the highest risk), and people who have serious health conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer. The environments that people live, socialize, and work in may also act to increase or decrease exposure to SARS-CoV-2 for certain vulnerable populations.

What impact does the COVID-19 pandemic have on mental health?

An outbreak such as COVID-19 can be stressful. It is natural to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious and afraid. People may also experience other symptoms of distress such as changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, increased substance use, and worsening of existing physical or psychological conditions.  While social distancing and self-isolation are important for decreasing exposure to SARS-CoV-2, prolonged isolation can negatively impact mental health.

Fear and anxiety about a disease can also lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people, and it affects the emotional or mental health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in. Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts and sharing them with others in your community. Helping yourself and others cope with stress can also make communities stronger.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)