About COVID-19 - Minnesota Dept. of Health
CDC has updated their COVID-19 guidance to help you better understand how to protect yourself and others, and what to do if you test positive or are exposed. More information is available at CDC: How to Protect Yourself and Others. MDH is actively working on updating our website and materials.

About COVID-19

On this page:
COVID-19 disease
How it spreads
COVID-19 variants
Prevention and treatment
Physical health effects

COVID-19 disease

  • COVID-19 is an infectious disease.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. It is caused by a coronavirus not found in people before.
  • Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19. For more information, visit COVID-19 Vaccine.

We are continuing to learn more about the virus and variants and will share new information when we have it.


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms.
  • Even after recovering from COVID-19, some people may have lingering symptoms such as fatigue, cough, or joint pain. Refer to physical health effects below for more information.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
  • For more information, visit CDC: Symptoms of COVID-19.

How it spreads

  • COVID-19 is spread in three main ways:
    • Breathing in air when close to an infected person who is exhaling small droplets and fine particles that contain the virus.
    • Having these small droplets and particles that contain virus land on the eyes, nose, or mouth, especially through splashes and sprays like a cough or sneeze.
    • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth with hands that have the virus on them. It is important to wash your hands before you touch your mouth, nose, face, or eyes.
  • People can spread the COVID-19 disease to each other.
  • Infected people may be able to spread the disease before they have symptoms or feel sick.
  • A person can also spread the disease if they have no symptoms. Research has shown that around 40-50% of people infected do not develop symptoms.

For more information, visit CDC: How COVID-19 Spreads.

Download the free COVIDaware MN app to get notified if you have been near someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 variants

  • Variants are common with a virus like COVID-19. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
  • Multiple COVID-19 variants have circulated globally and in the United States. Several of these variants have spread in Minnesota, including Delta and Omicron.
  • MDH and our partners are actively testing new positive test samples to continue to detect variants and learn more.
  • These variants are concerning because they are more contagious. For example, data shows that some variants spread more easily and can be as much as 50% more contagious than the original virus.

How vaccination helps

  • Vaccination reduces overall spread of the virus, which makes it harder for it to change (mutate) and create variants.
  • Vaccines reduce your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. That's why it's so important for all who are eligible to get vaccinated.
  • Minnesotans should also get a booster shot when they are due.

Testing for variants

  • COVID-19 tests do not tell you which variant you have.
  • Through a process called sequencing, scientists can determine which variants are circulating and monitor how the virus is changing.
  • A percentage of people's tests — not all tests — are sent to the state's public health lab. Testing for variants takes a long time and a lot of work. It takes the lab about 42 hours to run 100 tests. We conduct enough tests to give us a good idea of what variants are spreading.
  • We are not able to release the results of these variant tests to doctors or patients. No matter which variant you have, you'll take the same steps, like staying away from others, getting vaccinated, and wearing a mask when recommended.
  • CDC: Variants of the Virus

Getting COVID-19 again

  • If you had COVID-19 in the past three months, you may still have some protection from the virus. However, after those first three months, your chance of getting COVID-19 again increases, especially with new variants circulating.
  • Variants may be different from your first infection and your natural immunity may not be able to protect you as well from the variants. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. You do not have to wait three months after recovering from COVID-19 to get vaccinated.
  • Research shows that people who are fully vaccinated get better protection from COVID-19 compared to those who have natural immunity only from a previous infection of COVID-19. A CDC report shows that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely than fully vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again: Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021.

Other steps you can take

  • Wash your hands often and stay home if you feel sick.
  • MDH strongly recommends that you wear a mask in specific settings or situations found at Masks: COVID-19.
  • Get tested if you develop symptoms or if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19. For testing recommendations, visit COVID-19 Testing. For recommendations for staying home and away from others, visit If You Are Sick or Test Positive (isolation) and Close Contact or Exposure to COVID-19.
  • Variants developing around the world can spread to new places when people travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends delaying travel until you are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Visit CDC: International Travel During COVID-19.

For more information, visit CDC: What You Need to Know About Variants.

Prevention and treatment

Physical health effects

  • The virus that causes COVID-19 can affect people in different ways. Some can get very sick, while most have mild or moderate symptoms and get better without going to a clinic or into a hospital. Some have no symptoms. Some people die.
  • The long-term health effects are still unknown but there may be permanent damage to the heart, lungs, or other organs. This is more likely in those who had more severe illness but may also be possible even in those who had mild illness. Learn more at Long COVID.
  • COVID-19 can also lead to health problems in children. More research is needed to better understand how the virus may cause short and long-term illness.

Other health effects

  • COVID-19 can cause more than physical health problems. COVID-19 is a continuing threat to the personal, financial, and mental well-being of Minnesotans. This stress can lead to health problems. COVID-19 can cause stress when people:
    • Must be in the hospital.
    • Lose their jobs or cannot go to work.
    • Do not have money to pay bills.
    • Are separated from family and friends.
Mental Health and Well-being
Resources include supporting mental well-being during COVID-19. If someone you know is in crisis, use Crisis Text Line by texting MN to 741741.

Updated Thursday, 08-Sep-2022 10:03:51 CDT