CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) FAQ
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Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A: There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus not previously seen in humans. COVID-19 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, that has spread around the world, including the United States and all 50 states. The latest situation summary updates are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Q: What is the source of the virus?
A: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside China, including the United States.
Q. What does it mean that COVID-19 is a Global Pandemic?
A: A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide, including the United States, which has recorded cases in all 50 states.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-2019?
A:People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Call your health care provider for medical advice &/or go get tested if you experience these symptoms or think you have been exposed to COVID-19.
Q: How does COVID-19 spread?
A: COVID-19 has been shown to spread between people. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, so CDC recommends these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on the severity of their illness) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. Human coronaviruses typically spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation, including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.
Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:
- The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 72 hours.
- The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
- It has been at least 7 days since the onset of the patient’s illness.
This recommendation is to help prevent most, but may not prevent all, instances of secondary spread. According to CDC, the risk of transmission after recovery is likely very substantially less than that during illness.
Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.
Q: How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
A: There are many tests being used to diagnose COVID-19 that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized for use during the current emergency. All of these diagnostic tests identify the virus in samples from the respiratory system, such as from nasal or nasopharyngeal swabs. Some tests are conducted at the testing site you visit, and results are available to you within minutes. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, a process that takes several days.
Q: Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
A: People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. There have been reports of this occurring with COVID-19, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Q: Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
Q: What is social distancing?
A: Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least 6 feet away from other people reduces the chances of catching COVID-19. Other examples of social distancing with the goal of avoiding crowds, crowded spaces and mass gatherings include working from home instead of the office, closing schools and switching to on-line classes, visiting loved ones by electronic devices instead of in person, suspending worship services, and canceling or postponing large meetings.
Q: How can I help protect myself?
A: Follow these tips to help prevent COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you have not already done so, discuss influenza vaccination with your health care provider to help protect you against seasonal influenza.
Q: Should I wear a facemask?
A: Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
- Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
Q: Who is at higher risk?
A: COVID-19 is a new disease and we are learning more about it every day. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. Based upon available information to date, the CDC has said those most at risk include:
- People 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People who are pregnant
- People of any age with the following underlying medical conditions, particularly those that are not well controlled:
- Chronic lung disease or asthma
- Congestive hear failure or coronary artery disease
- Neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough
- Weakened immune system
- Chemotherapy radiation for cancer (currently or in recent past)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Chronic kidney diseases requiring dialysis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Lack of spleen or a spleen that doesn’t function correctly
- Extreme obesity (body mass index (BMI) great than or equal to 40)
Q: Should I clean “high touch” surfaces?
A: Yes. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work.
Q: What should health care providers, laboratories and health departments do?
A: Health care providers and laboratories should report suspect COVID-19 cases immediately (within 3 hours) to their local health department, who should report cases to IDPH within the same time frame. For recommendations and guidance, see the IDPH Coronavirus Page or the CDC’s web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Q: What are public health departments in Illinois doing about this situation?
A: IDPH and local health departments have implemented heightened surveillance to identify and test patients most likely to have COVID-19. Public health experts are communicating with and educating health care providers and other public health partners about the current situation. Measures are being developed to prevent the spread of illness in Illinois.