In December 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The virus responsible for the disease did not match any other known virus. On January 7, 2020, China confirmed that a new virus from the coronavirus family had been identified that was responsible for this new disease called COVID‑19.

For more information, see the Situation of the coronavirus (COVID‑19) in Québec page.

Some viruses in the coronavirus family cause disease in animals, while others cause disease in humans. Coronaviruses that cause disease in humans can be spread by close contact between people. In rare cases, coronaviruses that infect animals can also infect people. Like SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus responsible for COVID‑19, two other coronaviruses are spread from animals to humans and cause or have caused serious disease in humans, namely, SARS‑CoV in 2003 and MERS‑CoV since 2012.

Symptoms and treatment

The symptoms of COVID-19 are as follows:

  • fever:
    • in children 0-5 years old: 38.5°C (101.3°F) and above (rectal temperature),
    • in children 6 years and older: 38.1°C (100.6°F) and above (oral temperature),
    • in adults: 38°C (100.4°F) and above (oral temperature),
    • in older adults: 37.8°C (100°F) and above (oral temperature),
    • or 1.1°C above the person's usual value;
  • general symptoms:
    • sudden loss of sense of smell without nasal congestion, with or without loss of taste,
    • major fatigue,
    • significant loss of appetite,
    • general muscle pain (not related to physical exertion);
  • respiratory symptoms:
    • cough (new or worse),
    • shortness of breath, difficulty breathing,
    • sore throat,
    • runny or stuffy nose;
  • gastrointestinal symptoms:
    • nausea,
    • vomiting,
    • diarrhea,
    • stomach aches.

Symptoms can be mild or more severe like those associated with pneumonia.

Some people can spread the virus without knowing it because they have no symptoms or have not yet developed them. 

People most at risk of dying from complications are those:

  • with a weak immune system;
  • with a chronic disease such as diabetes or heart, lung and kidney disease;
  • age 70 and older.

However, the risk of death is highest for people aged 70 and older.

Development of symptoms

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms similar to COVID-19, you are invited to complete the COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment to get a recommendation on the next steps to follow, according to your condition. This assessment can be completed for your child or for another member of your family.However, this tool is not intended to be a substitute for medical attention.

People who develop symptoms can also contact 1‑877‑644‑4545.

COVID-19 tests

The testing strategy for COVID‑19 in Québec takes each region’s specific context into account. For more information, see the Testing for COVID‑19 page.

If you receive a call and see Santé publique displayed on your telephone, it is important to answer and cooperate with the public health authorities.

Stress, anxiety and depression

In the context of a pandemic, many people will experience stress, anxiety and depression reactions. To help you minimize the repercussions of these kinds of reactions on your life, see the Stress, Anxiety and Depression Associated With the Coronavirus COVID‑19 Disease.


There is no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. Supportive treatment may, however, be provided.

Most people with COVID-19 will recover on their own.

Modes of transmission

COVID‑19 is spread from person to person by contact with droplets projected into the air when a person who is sick talks, coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by infected hands. This means that you can contract a coronavirus by touching your mouth, nose or eyes after contact with an infected person or surface. The risks of transmission vary according to the nature of contact between people (JPG 2.53 Mb). While it can be spread by contaminated objects or surfaces, this is not the main mode of transmission. 

The exact mode of transmission of COVID‑19 is unknown at this time. However, a person with COVID‑19 is thought to be contagious from 48 hours before their symptoms appear. Studies are ongoing.

In general, coronaviruses do not survive for long on objects. They can survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days. It mainly depends on the type of surface (for example, copper, cardboard, stainless steel, plastic), the temperature and ambient humidity. According to findings from a recent experiment, the virus might be able to survive up to:

  • 4 hours on copper;
  • 24 hours on cardboard;
  • 48 hours (2 days) on stainless steel;
  • 72 hours (3 days) on plastic.

In Québec, there is no evidence to suggest that people are at risk of contracting COVID‑19 from animals or animal products.

Health recommendations for everyone

Anyone who has visited any public place must monitor their symptoms and follow the health recommendations :

  • Wash your hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, especially when you come in from outside.
  • Use alcohol-based disinfectant on your hands if soap and water are not available.
  • Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
    • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
    • If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
  • If you are sick, avoid contact with more vulnerable people, including people who are 70 years of age or older, people with a weak immune system or a chronic disease.
  • Avoid direct contact when you greet someone, such as shaking hands, and use alternative ways to greet people.
  • As much as possible, stay at least 2 metres (around 6 feet) away from people who do not live in your household. If this is not possible, wear a face covering.
  • Cover your face in public transit and in most enclosed and partially enclosed public places where wearing a face covering is mandatory for people age 10 and over.
  • Limit your travel as much as possible.

To find out the gatherings measures and physical distance to follow, consult the Gatherings and audiences during the COVID‑19 pandemic page and the Safety measures for workers and children in elementary schools  during COVID-19 page.

For hygienic measures to adopt when you go to the grocery store, see the video Conseils d’hygiène à l’épicerie et pour les fruits et légumes This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French, subtitled in English).

To find out the health measures to follow during a move, consult the document COVID‑19: Good Health Practices to Follow During a Move This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Every individual has their part to play to reduce the risk of spreading viruses. See the Preventing transmission of viruses and bacteria.

If you are worried or anxious about the coronavirus, you can contact the toll-free line 1 877 644-4545. To help you minimize the repercussions of these kinds of reactions on your life, see the Stress, Anxiety and Depression Associated With the Coronavirus COVID‑19 Disease.

Posters showing the 5 main health recommendations This hyperlink will open in a new window. are available in many languages.

Wearing a face covering on public transit and in public places

Wearing a mask or face covering that covers the nose and mouth is mandatory on public transit and in enclosed or partially enclosed public places for people age 10 and over.

For a list of places where wearing a mask or face covering is mandatory or to learn how to make and use your own face covering, look at the Wearing a face covering in public settings in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic page.

Self-isolating instructions

Please note that these confinement instructions may apply, depending on the situation. It is essential to abide at all times by the instructions.

Consult the page When to self-isolate to learn about the different self-isolating instructions.