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What is it?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people, and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people.

Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide. However, the emergence of novel (new) coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, have been associated with more severe respiratory illness.

Symptoms

Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

Transmission

Human coronaviruses are 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
How to Prepare

It’s important to prepare for a situation where you may become ill. These simple actions are useful for all types of illnesses, but especially given the need to stay at home with COVID-19.

No one likes getting sick but preparing for the possibility can provide a sense of comfort.

  • Families should have an action plan that identifies individual needs that must be met if a 14-day isolation period is required. This includes obtaining appropriate food, prescription medications, non-prescription medications like cold and flu aids, and any other items family members may need for physical or emotional support while ill. If you are caring for grandparents or older adults, keep an eye out for symptoms like difficulty breathing, confusion, or pressure in their chest.​
  • Families should know the plans of organizations (schools, work, etc.) in your community, and have back-up childcare plans if childcare centers or schools are closed for an extended period of time. Families should also identify a room in their house that can be used for isolation if a family member becomes ill.
  • Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation from public health officials and other credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at cdc.gov/coronavirusor the State of Illinois Coronavirus response website https://coronavirus.illinois.gov
  • If you suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19 because you have traveled to a country with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice, such as China or Italy, or have been around people who may have been exposed and/or are exhibiting symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately and let them know you may have been exposed to COVID-19 before visiting the healthcare facility. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take precautionary steps to keep other people from being exposed.
  • Nursing mothers who have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 or are being tested for COVID-19 should decide whether to continue breastfeeding in coordination with family members and healthcare providers. If continuing, take all possible precautions, including washing your hands, breast pump, and/or bottle parts before and after each use and wearing a face mask while feeding your baby. Consider having someone who is not sick feed expressed milk to the infant.
Prevention

Currently a vaccine or drug is not available for COVID-19. Community-based interventions such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing, and creating employee plans to work remotely can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Illinoisans should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community. The community can take measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Decisions about the implementation of community measures will be made by local and state officials, in consultation with federal officials as appropriate, and based on the scope of the outbreak and the severity of illness. Implementation will require extensive community engagement, with ongoing and transparent public health communications.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

The virus is thought to primarily spread from person-to-person.

  • Sustained contact (>10 minutes) between people who are roughly six feet from each other.
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or can possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

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