Public Health Topics
About COVID-19

Background on the novel coronavirus:

The novel coronavirus was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. On Feb. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization named the disease coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses and are common in animals including camels, cattle, cats and bats. They are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted between animals and people. These animal coronaviruses can evolve into a new human coronavirus and infect people and then spread from person-to-person such as with MERS and SARS.

> Watch for symptoms:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or 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

When to Seek Medical Attention: If you develop any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before medical help arrives.

> Can children and teens get COVID-19? What are the typical symptoms?

While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (asymptomatic) can still spread the virus to others.

Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all. However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19. They might require hospitalization, intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe. In rare cases, they might die. Babies under 1 year old and children with certain underlying conditions may be more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in adults and children and can look like symptoms of other common illnesses such as colds, strep throat or allergies. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children are fever and cough, but children may have any of these signs or symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Poor appetite or poor feeding, especially in babies under 1 year old

Source: CDC

Although very rare, COVID-19 cases among children can sometimes result a few weeks later in very serious illness known as Multi-symptom Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). As of June 11, as COVID-19 cases plummeted, so have MIS-C cases in children.  During the surge in December and January, there was a significant increase in children infected with COVID-19 which resulted in an increase weeks later of MIS-C cases. In January and February, there were over 100 MIS-C cases. During April and May there have been 8 MIS-C cases reported. In total, over the course of the pandemic, Public Health has confirmed 200 cases of MIS-C and two child deaths from MIS-C in L.A. County. All 200 children with MIS-C in L.A. County were hospitalized and 36% of the children were treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). Of the children with MIS-C, nearly 3% were less than one year of age, 26% were between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, 28% were between the ages of 5 and 9 years old, 28% were between the ages of 10 and 14, and 15% were between the ages of 15 and 20 years old. Latino/Latinx children account for 73% of the reported cases. Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

> How is it spread?

On October 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated information on how COVID-19 spreads.

  • It spreads very easily from person to person.
  • It most commonly spreads during close contact.
    • People who are physically near (within 6 feet) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person are at greatest risk of infection.
    • Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • It can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.
    • Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space.
    • Available data indicate that it is much more common for the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread through close contact with a person who has COVID-19 than through airborne transmission.
  • It spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.

For more information, click here.

> The following groups are at higher risk for experiencing severe illness from COVID-19:

Older adults (65 years and older)

  • Early data suggest older adults are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness. This may be because immune systems change with age, making it harder to fight off diseases and infection. Older adults also are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from illness.

Individuals with certain underlying medical conditions:

Underlying conditions are strongly associated with deaths due to COVID-19. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reports that since the beginning of the pandemic, 85% of people who died as a result of COVID-19 infection had an underlying condition. The most common condition was high blood pressure or hypertension, which was an underlying condition for 52% of those who died.  Forty-one percent (41%) of those who died had diabetes, 26% had cardiovascular disease other than hypertension, 21% had neurologic disease, and 16% had chronic renal disease. People who live with chronic illnesses suffer the worst outcomes of COVID-19 infection.

If you have serious underlying health conditions, talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about getting vaccinated. Because chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity so dramatically increase the risk of getting severely ill or dying with COVID-19 infection, vaccination is particularly important for people living with these conditions.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health highlights smoking as a risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19 because smoking harms every system in the body and causes both cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease. People who smoke are two to four times more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 (i.e. requiring hospitalization, being admitted to the ICU, needing mechanical ventilation and dying) when compared to those who did not smoke. For more information and cessation resources, here.

  • People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
    • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
    • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Based on available information at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:
    • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
    • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Hypertension or high blood pressure
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
    • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
    • Liver disease
    • Pregnancy
    • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
    • Smoking
    • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
    • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

As new information becomes available, the CDC will update its website here.