Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people, and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide. Cook County Department of Public Health has been responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 that was first identified in December 2019 during an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
COVID-19 can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic and is highly contagious whether or not you are symptomatic. Some people have long-term symptoms after having COVID-19—there is still a lot we don’t know about these long-haulers. If you are having health concerns after contracting and recovering from COVID-19, please discuss them with your doctor.
The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on the CDC webpage at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html. Illinois case totals and test results are listed here.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, headaches, body pain, loss of taste/smell, and shortness of breath. Preliminary data suggest older adults and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems can be at greater risk of developing serious illness from the virus although serious illness requiring hospitalization and other complications have occurred in people of all ages without previous underlying conditions.
If you are sick and have respiratory symptoms, such as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue, and muscle or body aches, stay home and call your medical provider. While at home, stay in a specific room and away from other people as much as possible to avoid spreading the illness to others. Those who need medical attention should contact their health care provider who will evaluate whether they can be cared for at home or need to be hospitalized.
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. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
When to seek emergency medical attention
- If someone is showing any of these signs, seek medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Spread of COVID-19
Transmission of COVID-19
Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 occurs between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is rare that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
- rarely, fecal contamination
The following can help prevent the spread of coronaviruses and protect yourself from becoming infected.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when in a public setting and when around people who don’t live in your household.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.