COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2). It is very contagious and can easily spread.
COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Infected people have had a wide range of symptoms reported – from mild symptoms to severe illness. It sometimes feels like a cold or flu, but it can also harm other parts of the body.
Some people – like older adults and people with underlying medical conditions – are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines offer the best protection. The safe, effective vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.
If you've been exposed to COVID-19
What is Long COVID?
Some people with COVID-19 experience long-term effects from their infection. This is known as post-COVID conditions or long COVID.
Even people who do not have symptoms at first can experience long-term complications. Some symptoms last four or more weeks. Even mild COVID-19 can cause long-term shortness of breath, chest pain and brain fog.
Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
Viruses are always changing (mutating). These changes are known as variants, or new strains. A new strain is slightly different than the previous strain. Learn more on how variants work.
The best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection. You can help by taking measures to protect yourself. The most important is getting vaccinated and boosted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists Omicron as a variant of concern.
Spread and Severity
Evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times more contagious than the Delta variant. This makes it four to six times more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus.
Anyone infected with Omicron can spread the virus to others. You can still spread COVID-19 regardless of your vaccination status and even if you don’t have symptoms.
Generally, Omicron is less severe than prior variants. People who are at higher risk may still have severe disease, need hospitalization and could die. A surge in cases could lead to significant increases in hospitalization and death.
NCDHHS is tracking variants weekly to see which are increasing over time in the state. This early detection system helps guide North Carolina’s pandemic response. The CDC is also tracking variants.
How can I protect myself and others?
We now have a robust toolbox to manage our risk from COVID-19:
- Get vaccinated for the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death. The risk is much higher for people who are not vaccinated.
- Wear a tight-fitting mask for an extra layer of protection. Wash your hands often and wait six feet from others.
- Get tested if you feel sick or have been exposed to COVID-19. And if you test positive, treatments are available.
NCDHHS has updated its COVID-19 dashboard to reflect the best metrics for this stage of the pandemic. As trends rise and fall, you can choose to add layers of protection to mitigate your risk.
Download My COVID-19 Plan, a fillable form that helps prepare you in case you get sick with COVID-19.