About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. With some coronaviruses there are no symptoms or mild illness, like the common cold, while other coronaviruses can cause severe illness. Some human coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.

Those who are infected with COVID-19 may be very ill or have little to no symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 are often similar to other illnesses.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may include:

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • headache
  • muscle/joint/body aches
  • feeling unwell/unusual tiredness
  • acute loss of sense of smell or taste

Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been reported, but typically along with other COVID-19 symptoms, and may be seen more often in children.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can:

  • take up to 14 days to appear after contact with the virus
  • be very mild or more serious
  • vary from person to person

If you have symptoms of COVID-19:

  • stay home (isolate) to avoid spreading it to others
    • if you live with others, stay in a separate room 
  • If you do not need medical attention or are not in a high-risk group:
    • take a self-test (rapid antigen test) and, if you received a negative result, repeat the test again in 48 hours using the second test in the kit.
  • If you can’t get a self-test kit, need non-urgent medical attention, or are at a higher risk of severe outcomes:
    • contact your family doctor or nurse practitioner; contact a walk-in clinic; or, if you are registered for virtual care, contact Maple for an online assessment.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current evidence suggests that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, for example, the distance between two people having a conversation. The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. Another person can then contract the virus when infectious particles that pass through the air are inhaled at short range (this is often called short-range aerosol or short-range airborne transmission) or if infectious particles come into direct contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth (droplet transmission).

The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols can remain suspended in the air or travel farther than conversational distance (this is often called long-range aerosol or long-range airborne transmission).

People may also catch the virus from touching something with the virus on it, then touching the eyes, nose or mouth without washing hands.

The virus is not known to spread through ventilation systems or through water.

Further research is ongoing to better understand the spread of the virus and which settings are most risky and why. Research is also under way to study virus variants that are emerging and why some are more transmissible.

Am I at risk of getting sick with COVID-19?

Your risk of severe illness may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for: older people or people with chronic disease (for example: diabetes, cancer, heart, renal, or chronic lung disease).

COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020.

COVID-19 Variants of Concern

Are variants of concern present in PEI?

Yes, positive cases of COVID-19 in PEI have been identified as being infected with a variant of concern.

View PEI case information involving variants of concern.

What is a variant of concern?

Genetic variations of viruses, such as the one that causes COVID-19, are common and expected.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will naturally develop mutations, which are changes to the genetic material in the virus over time.

When there have been several significant mutations to the virus it is then called a variant. A variant is of concern when it affects:

  • disease spread
  • disease severity
  • tests used to detect the virus
  • vaccines and treatments

What are the current known COVID-19 variants of concern?
Current known circulating COVID-19 variants of concern include:

  • Omicron BA.4 and BA.5
  • Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1

These variants of concern include mutations that make the virus more contagious, allowing it to spread more easily. 

Though COVID-19 variants of concern are more contagious, they spread in the same way as the original virus and have the same COVID-19 symptoms – this means that we can use the same public health measures to stop the spread of all strains of COVID-19.

How does PEI monitor for variants of concern?

PEI is actively monitoring for the presence of known variants of concern in our province.  

A selection of positive COVID-19 testing samples and all positive wastewater samples collected in PEI are regularly sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba for genetic sequencing and identification for possible variants of concern.   

More information on PEI’s wastewater sampling can be found here. 

Published date: 
May 2, 2023
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121