If you have symptoms:

  • If you are experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever or cough, please call your primary health care provider for guidance
  • For your safety and the safety of others, please do not come to an urgent care clinic or emergency room unless you have been instructed to do so
  • Your provider will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness
  • If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms such as difficulty breathing or pressure in the chest, please call 911

In a recent video, Paul Biddinger, MD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Disaster Medicine, and Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, chief of infectious diseases at Mass General, answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19. After reviewing this page, we encourage you to watch their video for more information about ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the novel coronavirus.

Watch the video >

Frequently Asked Questions | Last Updated April 27, 2020

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 most commonly causes cold or flu-like symptoms. These may include fever, cough, difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches or chills, repeated shaking with chills, headache or new loss of taste or smell. It can also cause serious problems, such as shortness of breath, pneumonia (from the virus), possibly respiratory failure requiring a breathing machine (a type of life support) and even death, especially in older people and people with existing health problems. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all but could nonetheless spread the virus to someone else.

Learn more about symptoms from the CDC >

I have symptoms of COVID-19. What should I do?

  • Please call your primary health care provider for guidance. For your safety and the safety of others, please do not come to an urgent care clinic or emergency room unless you have been instructed to do so.
  • If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms such as difficulty breathing or pressure in the chest, please call 911
  • If you come to any area of the hospital and are concerned that you may have COVID-19, or if you have a fever or cough, please wear a mask and go directly to the reception desk to speak to a staff member. Do not wait in the waiting room. 

Learn more about what to do if you are sick from the CDC >

How is COVID-19 spread?

  • If you are within six feet of someone with COVID-19 infection, the infection could spread to you through droplets when the person sneezes or coughs
  • If you touch an object—such as a door handle—that has the COVID-19 virus on it, and then you touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can infect yourself
  • If you are helping care for someone with COVID-19 and you within six feet of them when they cough or sneeze

COVID-19 does not travel through the air, other than up to six feet of an infected person as described above.

Learn more about how COVID-19 spreads from the CDC >

Who is at risk of getting sick with COVID-19?

While anyone can get COVID-19, currently it appears that patients who are older, have suppressed immune systems, or have chronic medical conditions are more likely to experience serious illness with COVID-19.

Learn more about at-risk populations from the CDC >

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

There also is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 commonly treat their symptoms at home with rest, fluids and other common cold or flu treatments, although some may require medical care to treat more severe symptoms.

Is there a vaccine?

Scientists around the globe—including researchers at the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT and Harvard—are working on developing a vaccine to combat COVID-19, however, currently there is no vaccine to protect against the virus.

I once took Tamiflu when I had the seasonal flu. Can I take a similar drug to protect me from COVID-19?

No. There currently is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 seasonal like the flu? Will warm weather stop the outbreak?

At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

Should I wear a face mask to prevent COVID-19?

The CDC continues to study both the spread and effects of COVID-19 across the United States. Recent studies show that many individuals carrying COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and that even those who are presymptomatic (people who will eventually show symptoms) can transmit the virus. This means that seemingly healthy people can spread the virus to others by interacting in close proximity. 

As a result, the CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, especially those where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. 

Please note: Cloth face masks are not meant to serve as an alternative to the six-foot social distancing rule. Social distancing is critical in addition to wearing a cloth mask to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Learn more about prevention from the CDC >

Is Mass General prepared to care for patients with coronavirus?

As one of only 10 Regional Ebola and Other Special Pathogens Centers in the country, Mass General has teams of clinical staff who are trained to provide safe care to patients during this kind of outbreak. Hospital doctors, nurses, infection control specialists, emergency preparedness specialists and administrators have been closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak.

Read an article from the Washington Post on emergency preparedness efforts at Mass General >

I have an upcoming appointment at Mass General. What should I do?

As part of Mass General’s COVID-19 response efforts, many of our programs are offering virtual visits for routine and follow-up care. These are real-time video or phone conversations with your provider that you can have using a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Please reach out to your provider directly to see if they offer virtual visits for their practice.

If you have an appointment for an operation or procedure, know that we are deferring some elective and non-urgent care to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients and staff during this time. We will reach out to you directly if changes must be made to your appointment.

How can I protect myself and my family?

There are simple everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. These include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
  • Stay home if you are sick

Learn more about prevention from the CDC >

I have a vacation planned, should I cancel it?

The best, most up-to-date resource for information about travel alerts is located on the CDC website. You can find a list of destinations the CDC recommends travelers avoid for all nonessential travel due to the widespread transmission of COVID-19. It also posts recommendations for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions to postpone travel plans to certain areas.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including refrigerated or frozen food?

Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety.

Should I have extra food and supplies at home?

For emergencies of any kind, it is always good to keep supplies on hand, including food, water and medicine. Visit www.ready.gov for preparedness checklists and plans. This is a good time for you to create, review and discuss your family’s emergency plan.

I have access to, or am able to make, personal protective equipment such as masks. Can I donate them to Mass General?

We are so grateful to the many people who have offered to provide COVID-19 relief to Mass General through a material donation. If you are interested in donating materials, please use the form link below and we will be in touch about next steps. We want to be mindful to only accept what we truly need, so please refrain from shipping or dropping off any donations unless you receive confirmation from us. Thank you for your generosity.

Fill out the form >

COVID-19 Infographic

Download a PDF of information on symptoms, transmission and prevention >