About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

a molecular image (white molecule with attached red cell receptors) of COVID-19 coronavirus adapted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated 01/23/23

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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel Coronavirus, which was discovered in 2019.

Although this particular "novel" viral variant is new, Coronaviruses as a group have been known to science since the late 1930's and are recognized to cause 15-30% of all winter "common colds", and it is likely that every adult in the world has been infected with at least one common cold-causing Coronavirus at some point in their lives.

The term “novel” is used to describe a virus that enters a new species (animal or human) in whose population the virus does not normally circulate.

Reported cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization. Seniors and individuals with certain underlying health conditions may be more likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Variant Strains

As viruses grow and spread, they sometimes mutate into new versions, called variant strains. 

  • Mutation is natural, and most mutations do no additional harm.
  • Some variants are more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. This means they can spread more easily and quickly, which may lead to more cases.
    • These are known as "variants of concern" by the CDC, and are heavily monitored

There are a number of currently known variant strains of COVID-19 that have been found in Oregon. The CDC names COVID-19 variants after a greek letter, such as "Alpha", "Delta", or "Omicron". For the latest information on COVID-19 variants, please see the Centers for Disease Control website.

The symptoms of variant strains are the same as for other COVID-19 illnesses. See the Symptoms list below.

At this time, it appears that all currently approved vaccines provide protection against all known variants. Some medical treatments are shown to be less effective in specific variants.

These general precautions help prevent all known COVID-19 illnesses:

  • Wear a face covering when outside the house.
  • Avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often

While we continue efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible, we need to stay vigilant. This includes using preventative measures, such as masking and avoiding crowded activities.

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Updated 7/14/2022

For confirmed COVID-19 cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild flu-like symptoms to severe illness and death. These symptoms may appear anytime two to fourteen days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • 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 and may be updated in the future

Learn more at CDC website


Also called "post-COVID conditions," long COVID includes a wide range of ongoing health problems in individuals after a COVID-19 infection even if there were no symptoms during the initial infection, though it is more common after severe COVID-19 illness and may be more common in unvaccinated individuals. The most common symptoms of long COVID are:

  • Fatigue
  • "Brainfog" - Inability to concentrate
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Joint or nerve pain
  • Sleep issues
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Increased severity of symptoms after mental or physical activity

Long COVID has been recognized as a protected condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people with disabilities that limit one or more major life activities, such as standing, concentrating, or speaking. If you are experiencing symptoms of long COVID, you can contact the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) for guidance on the kinds of accommodations you may ask for.

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COVID-19 is spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected. People who are infected often have symptoms of illness, but may also be asymptomatic. Even when asymptomatic, transmission is possible.

Person-to-person spread

The virus is spread mainly from person-to-person. Respiratory droplets, produced when an infected person coughs sneezes or talks, can land in the mouths or noses or inhaled into the lungs of people who are nearby. Even people who aren't showing symptoms of COVID-19 (asymptomatic) can spread the illness.

Maintaining good physical distance (about 6 feet) and utilizing a barrier to stop droplets, like a face mask, are both very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Staying home for 5 days after testing positive for COVID-19, and wearing a mask for 5 additional days can help reduce the chance of spreading the illness. 

Learn more at CDC website

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Increased Risk for some Individuals

COVID-19 does not affect everyone the same. Symptoms and severity can be different, with some people getting sick enough to be hospitalized while others might not develop symptoms at all. You may have heard the phrase “individuals at high risk from COVID-19”, but what does that mean? Who is at high risk?

“Individuals at high risk from COVID-19” means people who for one reason or another are more likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19. This includes older individuals over the age of 65, as well as those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. 

Some individuals might also be immunocompromised: they either have a medical condition or are taking medication which makes it so that their immune system isn’t as strong or doesn’t work the way it should. Immunocompromised individuals are at high risk from COVID-19, but not everyone at high risk is immunocompromised.

For these individuals, taking precautions against COVID-19 is more important. Benton County Health recommends that individuals at high risk take special precautions:

  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Wear a mask when in public spaces, a high filtration one like an N95 is best.
  • Choose outdoor or well ventilated locations whenever possible.
  • Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and test if they show up.
  • Have a plan with their primary care provider on what to do should they test positive for COVID-19.

For more information and a list of conditions that are considered at high risk from COVID-19, please visit the CDC: People with Certain Medical Conditions.

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The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention and Oregon Health Authority officials continue to recommend people in Oregon take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Wear a mask or face covering in areas of high transmission.
    • ​Masks, especially high filtration masks like N95s, are recommended when you are in areas of higher risk. This could be anytime you’re in public when there is high community transmission, or in particularly crowded spaces like a concert
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Cover all surfaces of your hand and rub them together until they feel dry.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Take care of your health overall. Stay current on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine, eat well and exercise to help your body stay resilient.

If you test positive or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, follow the instructions here: COVID-19 Isolation Guidance.

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