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General FAQs

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Common Questions

What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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. The latest situation summary updates are available on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

What is the source of the virus?

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.

What does it mean that COVID-19 is a Global Pandemic?

A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics occur when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people. In the beginning, since there is little to no pre-existing immunity against a new virus, it spreads worldwide. The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide.

What are the symptoms of COVID-2019?

People who are infected with COVID-19 have developed mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and potentially respiratory distress 2-14 days after exposure. Call your health care provider for medical advice if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 has been shown to spread between people. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, so the 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. It involves considering specifics of each situation, including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient. 

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

Diagnosis occurs through laboratory testing of respiratory specimens. Some coronavirus strains cause the common cold and patients tested by their health care provider may test positive for these types. Find a testing site near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

According to the CDC, people who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 may still be able to spread the virus. Maintaining good personal hygiene, practicing social distancing, and wearing a face covering can help prevent both the risk of infection and of spreading the disease.

What is social distancing?

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 and crowded spaces include working from home instead of the office, closing schools and switching to online classes, connecting with loved ones virtually instead of in person, suspending worship services, and canceling or postponing in-person meetings and events.

Is there a vaccine?

Yes. A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. COVID-19 vaccines help reduce the risk of community spread by effectively preventing the COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. The State of Illinois is continuing to ensure that vaccines are delivered and available in accordance with the CDC guidelines and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Learn more about Illinois’ Vaccine Distribution Plan.

How can I help protect myself?

COVID-19 vaccines effectively prevent spreading COVID-19. The risk of spreading COVID-19 is minimal for fully vaccinated people, and the risk is reduced from fully vaccinated individuals to unvaccinated individuals. As a result, fully vaccinated people may resume outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to wear a mask in public indoor settings.

According to the CDC, below are precautions you should still take even if you have been fully vaccinated:

  • Wear a face mask on public transportation such as planes, buses, trains, and transportation hubs such as airports and stations. 
  • Follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
  • Watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay away from others.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you should continue taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

Should I wear a facemask?

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to wear a mask in public indoor settings. 

Who is at higher risk for COVID-19?

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 heart failure or coronary artery disease
    • Diabetes
    • 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, with a body mass index (BMI) great than or equal to 40

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