What You Need to Know About the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

An Update on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updated 03/16/20

  • CDC recommends canceling or postponing events with 50+ people for the next 8 weeks
  • Health care providers should prepare for rapid spread and increasing number of cases
  • People with underlying medical conditions including chronic lung diseases (like asthma and COPD) are more likely to suffer severe effects of the illness, and should take additional precautions to avoid getting sick.  
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a Global Pandemic

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 virus, known as COVID-19, has a growing number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to date including the Chicago-area.

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestions, sore throat or diarrhea. The symptoms are very similar to the seasonal flu virus. Symptoms have appeared anywhere from two to 14 days after contact with the virus. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications yet approved to treat it. If you experience these symptoms, visit a health care provider to determine the cause of your sickness as soon as possible and try to avoid contact with others.

There are a number of ways to reduce your 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 can help you avoid the flu so your immune system is better able to cope with other illnesses.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer which kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
  • Contact a health care provider and stay home if you have symptoms.

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. For people at higher risk of serious illness, like those living with chronic lung diseases, the CDC has developed additional recommendations:

1. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of your prescribed medications. Check with your insurance provider for refill terms.

2. Stock up on every day supplies in your home.

4. Establish a COVID-19 hygiene routine for people entering home (i.e using hand sanitizer, handwashing, etc.), but try to avoid contact with others as much as possible especially if a COVID-19 outbreak is identified in your community.

5. If home health nurses or aides assist you with household tasks, ask what steps they are taking to ensure prevention practices are in place.

6. Avoid large crowds, cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

7. When you go out in public, stay away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.

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. To sign-up to receive alerts from the Illinois Department of Public Health, click here.