Information about the virus itself

Please use the above link to access the AHS COVID-19 Online Screening

Identifying and isolating people infected with COVID-19 is the only way to stop the spread.

Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.

COVID-19 is transmitted though tiny droplets of liquid produced by people who have the virus.

These droplets spread by:

  • coughing, sneezing, talking, laughing, and singing
  • touching objects or surfaces the virus has landed on and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth (bath towels, kitchen utensils, door knobs, etc.)

People who have COVID-19 can spread it to others before they start to feel sick.

COVID-19 is not widely spread by being airborne, which means it doesn’t stay in the air long and won’t go very far. But if you are too close to someone with COVID-19 you can get sick by breathing in air that contains droplets with the virus.

We think the virus generally only survives for a few hours on a surface or object, but it may be possible for it to survive several days under some conditions.


COVID-19 symptoms can be mild and are similar to influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

  • Common symptoms: cough, fever (over 38°C), shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat.
  • Other symptoms can include: stuffy nose, painful swallowing, headache, chills, muscle or joint aches, feeling unwell in general, new fatigue or severe exhaustion, gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite), loss of sense of smell or taste, conjunctivitis (pink eye).
  • Symptom of serious illness: difficulty breathing or pneumonia.

If you become ill

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, reduce your contact with others:

  • isolate yourself at home for 14 days to avoid spreading it to others
    • if you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a 2-metre distance
  • visit a health care professional or call your local public health authority
    • call ahead to tell them your symptoms and follow their instructions

About coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.

COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and more rarely, these can then spread from person to person through close contact. COVID-19 can cause serious respiratory illness. Because it is a new virus with no treatment or immunity in people, it is critical for people with any symptoms to stay home and self-isolate to keep it from spreading.

Most people – about 80% – recover without needing special treatment. However, it can cause serious illness in some, and there is a risk of death in severe cases.

While we are still learning about COVID-19, serious illness appears to develop more often in people who are older or have pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes.

There have been 2 other specific coronaviruses that have spread from animals to humans and which have caused severe illness in humans. These are the:

1. SARS - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a respiratory illness that is spread through close contact with an infected person. Those persons living in the same household, providing care to someone with SARS, or having direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of an infected person are most at risk for contracting the disease.

As of September 5, 2003, 438 cases of SARS have been reported in Canada. The first Canadian cases were identified in March 2003 in people who had traveled to Hong Kong and returned to Canada. The majority of cases were in Ontario, but cases were also reported in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.

There has been no known transmission of human SARS coronavirus since 2004.

2. MERS - Middle East respiratory syndrome

MERS is an infectious disease caused by a virus from the coronaviruses family. The virus that causes MERS is known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Coronaviruses cause the common cold, but some can also cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms. This includes the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus. Some cases can result in death.

There are no reported cases of MERS in Canada.