What You Need to Know About the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

An Update on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updated 05/21/20

  • CDC has provided new guidelines for re-opening public spaces as nationwide restrictions begin to ease. For additional CDC guidance on activities during the COVID-19 outbreak click here
  • 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 continue taking additional precautions to avoid getting sick.  
  • Individuals should continue to follow guidance from local public health authorities; social distancing and proper hygiene will continue to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while treatments and a vaccine are developed. 

A new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 continues to spread, with cases throughout countries worldwide.

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.

If you live in Illinois and think you may need a COVID-19 test, learn more and find a local testing site here. If you are outside of Illinois, check with your state’s public health department for more information on testing in your area.

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.

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.