The Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, and public health partners throughout Illinois, and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 that was first identified in December 2019 during an outbreak in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, including the United States, since it was detected and was declared a public health emergency for the U.S. on January 31, 2020 to aid the nation’s health care community in responding to the threat. The World Health Organization announced March 11, 2020 that the spread of coronavirus qualifies as a global pandemic.
In addition, Gov. JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation March 9, 2020 regarding COVID-19 that gives the state access to federal and state resources to combat the spread of this newly emerged virus.
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported January 21, 2020 and the first confirmed case in Illinois was announced January 24, 2020 (a Chicago resident). The first cases outside Chicago and Cook County were reported March 11, 2020 in Kane and McHenry counties. The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on the CDC webpage at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html. Illinois case totals and test results are listed here.
Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to be mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Preliminary data suggest older adults and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems seems to be at greater risk of developing serious illness from the virus.
If you are sick and have respiratory symptoms, such as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue, and muscle or body aches, stay home and call your medical provider. Keep in mind there is limited treatment options for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill can isolate at home. While at home, as much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people. Those who need medical attention should contact their health care provider who will evaluate whether they can be cared for at home or need to be hospitalized.
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.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
When to seek emergency medical attention
If someone is showing any of these signs, seek medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
Human coronaviruses 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
The following can help prevent the spread of coronaviruses and protect yourself from becoming infected.
- Get fully vaccinated
- Wear a mask - cover your mouth and nose with a mask when in indoor and crowded outdoor public settings
- Keep physically distanced from those outside your household or not fully vaccinated
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Stay home if you are sick
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
In the United States, there are currently three vaccines authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19 – Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a one-dose series at this time, while the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines both require two shots given 3-4 weeks apart to get the most protection. Studies have found that all COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States provide protection against COVID-19.