COVID-19 quick facts

LAST UPDATED: Friday, March 5, 2021

The library has developed a quick resource guide for information on the new coronavirus strain, COVID-19. The information compiled here is from the BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver Coastal Health, Health Canada and the World Health Organization. Please visit these organizations’ websites for the latest information and details surrounding COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are commonplace and typically cause mild illness like the cold. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus for humans, and we therefore haven’t built up defences against it yet.


COVID-19 causes a respiratory (lung) infection. People who are sick with COVID-19 can have a cough, difficulty breathing, fever, muscle aches or a sore throat. Most healthy people who are infected with the new coronavirus will have a mild illness similar to the common cold. It can take up to 14 days for the illness to appear after exposure to the virus.

How does it spread?

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, the new coronavirus spreads the same way as other viruses that cause colds and flus:

  • Respiratory droplets from coughing;
  • Close personal contact like shaking hands;
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

Protect yourself and others

The virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days and it can take that long for symptoms to appear. If you are exposed to someone who may have COVID-19, you must self-isolate for 14 days. Contact HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1 for advice on how to seek medical attention.

International travel has been the primary cause of spreading the virus. Anyone who returns from travelling outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

If you are travelling between Canadian provinces and territories, note that there may be challenges or out-of-pocket expenses when receiving care outside of your home province.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face — especially with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, then wash your hands.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Practise social distancing — avoid large groups of people and maintain a 1- to 2-metre distance (3 to 6 feet) between yourself and others.

Take action

If you begin to experience any symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and do not come in contact with others. Proceed to connecting with professional help for assistance using the following tools:

  • Use the BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool to determine the best course of action
  • For immediate questions or concerns about symptoms, contact HealthLinkBC (8-1-1), available at any time and in more than 130 languages.
  • Before seeking in-person medical assistance, determine whether it’s necessary by contacting HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) for assessment
  • If visiting a clinic or hospital, call ahead so that they can prepare to minimize risk of exposure to others. Let them know your symptoms, if you’ve been travelling, where you live, if you’ve had direct contact with animals such as an animal market, or direct contact with someone who is sick, especially if they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
  • For non-medical information regarding the virus, such as advice on social distancing, you can call the provincial hotline number: 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) daily between 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., or via text message at 604-630-0300, available in more than 110 languages
  • Keep updated through the BC Center for Disease Control website and the Vancouver Coastal Health website

Stay informed

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