What You Need to Know About the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

What We Currently Know About the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updated 02/27/20

  • CDC anticipates outbreak will reach U.S.
  • Health care providers should prepare for rapid spread and increasing number of cases
  • Taking basic precautions can reduce the risk of coronavirus infection and further spread
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says the new coronavirus is an international public health emergency based on its continued spread

A new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 continues to spread, with a growing number of cases identified in countries worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says while the immediate risk to the U.S. population is low, it is likely the outbreak will reach the country and affect people on a larger scale. The virus, known as COVID-19, has 14 confirmed cases in the U.S. to date including a Chicago-area couple. Cases within the U.S. are primarily connected to travel in affected areas, though limited person-to-person spread has also been identified.

Coronaviruses are part of a group of viruses that may lead to lung illness, with symptoms that at first are similar to those of the common cold. According to the CDC, symptoms associated with cases of the new virus have included fever, cough and trouble breathing. They have appeared anywhere from two to 14 days after contact with the virus. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

There is currently no vaccine or medication to prevent and treat this virus, but you can still reduce the risk of infection and prevent further spread. It’s recommended you:

  • Get a flu shot if you have not already. While this won’t prevent COVID-19, it may lessen its impact as your body can better fight off infection
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick
  • Stay home and avoid contact with others if you are sick

If you live with lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, taking steps to avoid getting sick is especially important as viruses can worsen these conditions or lead to additional lung illnesses.

In response to continued spread of the virus to new countries, especially those with more vulnerable populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the outbreak an international public health emergency

For U.S. residents, the CDC says current risk depends on exposure to the virus, which is known to spread person-to person. It is important to know the signs and symptoms and take steps to prevent infection when the outbreak reaches the U.S. Limiting person-to-person spread by following the steps above can lessen its impact while the CDC learns more about about how it affects people.

The CDC continues screening for the virus in travelers who arrive to the U.S. from Wuhan. These screenings are currently taking place at Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York JFK and Los Angeles airports.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) will continue to monitor and provide updates as made available.

For guidance in Spanish, the Chicago Department of Public Health has additional resources.