Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus not previously seen in humans. COVID-19 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, which has spread around the world. Because it is a new virus, scientists are learning more about it each day. Although most people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms, COVID-19 can cause severe illness and death. Some groups, including older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions, are at increased risk of severe illness. The latest situation summary updates are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Q:  What is the source of the virus?

A: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.  Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside China, including the United States.

Q. What does it mean that COVID-19 is a Global Pandemic?

A: A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease.  Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people.  Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person.  Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide, including the United States.

 Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: People who are infected with COVID-19 have developed a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and include fever, chills, repeated shaking from chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, eye redness, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.  Call your health care provider for medical advice if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms.

Q: How does COVID-19 spread?

A: COVID-19 has been shown to spread most commonly through close contact from person-to-person, including people who are physically near each other (within 6 feet).  People who are infected but do not show symptoms (asymptomatic) can also spread the virus to others.  Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets when people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe.  These droplets can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection.  Some infections can be spread by exposure to the virus in small droplets and particles that linger in the air for minutes to hours.  Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch.  A person may get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be a common way COVID-19 spreads. 

Q: Are there new variants of the COVID-19 virus circulating?

A: Multiple new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

  • The United Kingdom (UK) identified a variant called B.1.1.7 with a large number of mutations in the fall of 2020. This variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding. It has since been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of December 2020 and in Illinois in January 2021.
  • In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7. Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.
  • In Brazil, a variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January 2021.

Q: Do these new variants spread more easily?

A: Yes. These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which scientists fear may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths. Rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.

Q: Are vaccines effective against these variants?

A: Yes. So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.

Q: How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

A: There are many tests being used to diagnose COVID-19 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized for use during the current emergency. All of these diagnostic tests identify the virus in samples from the respiratory system, such as from nasal or nasopharyngeal swabs. Some tests are conducted at the testing site you visit, and results are available to you within minutes. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, a process that takes several days.

Q: Who should get tested for COVID-19?

A:  People who have symptoms of COVID-19; people who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone with confirmed COVID-19; and people who have been asked or referred to get testing by their health care provider, or by IDPH or your local health department.  Not everyone needs to be tested.  If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

Q: Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

A: Yes.  People who do not have symptoms (asymptomatic) and do not know they are infected can spread the virus to others.  While the incubation period for the virus that causes COVID-19 can be 2-14 days, people who are infected with the virus may become infectious to others several days before they start to feel ill. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear masks in public settings.

Q: What should I do if I get sick?

A: Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19  should be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on the severity of their illness) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation, including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient. 

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • It has been at least 10 days since the onset of the patient’s illness and
  • the patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours and
  • other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.  (Loss of taste or smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.)

A person with severe illness from COVID-19 (admitted to a hospital and needed oxygen) may need to remain in isolation for longer than 10 days after symptoms first appeared (possibly up to 20 days) and may need to finish isolation at home.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

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

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) away from others, whenever possible.  This is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.  This helps reduce the risk of spread both by close contact and by airborne transmission.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces and ensure indoor spaces are properly ventilated by bringing in outdoor air as much as possible.  In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to infectious respiratory droplets.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
  • Stay home and isolate from others when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you have not already done so, discuss influenza vaccination with your health care provider to help protect you against seasonal influenza.

Q: Do I have to wear a face covering?

A: Yes. Beginning May 1, 2020 (Executive Order 2020-32), individuals over the age of 2 and who are medically able were required to wear a face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others. The mandate was extended January 4, 2021 for 150 days. Essential businesses and manufacturers are required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Choose a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that fits snugly against the sides of your face.

Q: Why is a face mask necessary?

A:  Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.  Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets, which spread COVID-19, from reaching others. You should wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick.  This is because several studies have found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people.  The mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected, but it can also help prevent you from being infected.  Remember, a mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing and should be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart.

Q: What type of mask should I wear?

A: Some masks work better to help to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Recommended masks include:

  • Non-medical disposable masks.
  • Masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face).
  • Masks made with breathable fabric, such as cotton.
  • Masks made with tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source).
  • Masks with two or three layers.
  • Masks with inner filter pockets.

The most effective fabrics for cloth masks are tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton or cotton blends; breathable; and have two or three layers. Less effective fabrics are loosely woven fabrics, such as loose knit fabrics; difficult to breath through (like plastic or leather); or single layer.

Disposable face masks are single-use masks and are sold online or through large retail stores.  You may prefer using disposable masks in situations where your mask is likely to get wet or dirty.  As with cloth masks, make sure your disposable mask fits close to your face without large side-gaps and completely covers your nose and mouth.

CDC does not recommend using masks with exhalation valves or vents because this type of mask may not prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to others.  The hole in the material may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others.

Do not use surgical masks and respirators that are meant for health care workers.  Currently, these masks and respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders to prevent supply shortages.

Q: What steps should parents take to protect children?

A: While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can sprerad the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.  When not in school, discourage children and teens from gathering in public places to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Encourage frequent handwashing and follow other prevention tips.

Q: Who is at higher risk?

A: Risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at the highest risk. Certain medical conditions can also increase risk for severe illness. People at increased risk, and those who live or visit with them, need to take precautions to protect themselves from getting COVID-19. Based upon available information, the CDC has said those most at risk include:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People who are pregnant
  • Adults of any age with the following underlying medical conditions are at increased risk, particularly those that are not well controlled:
    • Cancer
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Down syndrome
    • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but less than 40 kg/m2)
    • Extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] greater than or equal to 40 kg/m2)
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Smoking
    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
    • Weakened immune system from solid organ transplant
  • Based on what is known at this time, adults of any age with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:
    • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
    • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Hypertension or high blood pressure
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
    • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
    • Liver disease
    • Overweight (BMI greater than 25 kg/m2, but less than 30 kg/m2)
    • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
    • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
    • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

The above lists of underlying medical conditions are not exhaustive and only include conditions with sufficient evidence to draw conclusions. It may be updated at any time and is subject to potentially rapid change as the science evolves.

Q: Should I clean “high touch” surfaces?

A: Yes. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.  If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.  To disinfect, most common U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered household disinfectants will work. 

Q: Is there a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Currently, three vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

Q: Is the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine available?

A: On April 23, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Illinois Department of Public Health lifted the pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 Vaccine in the United States and Illinois. On April 13, 2021, after six cases of an extremely rare but severe type of blood clot associated with low platelet counts were reported in women who had received the J&J vaccine, the CDC and FDA paused use of the vaccine. This pause allowed the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to conduct an extensive review of what they ultimately found to be 15 cases, as well as inform providers and clinicians about the potential adverse events and how they can be recognized and treated.

The pause was proof that the extensive safety monitoring system is working and was able to detect a very small number of adverse events. The FDA has concluded that the known and potential benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks.

However, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen.

People who have received the J&J COVID-19 Vaccine within the past three weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should seek medical care right away. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor, nurse, or clinic.

Q: Which vaccine is the most effective?

A: The best COVID-19 vaccine is the first one that is available to you. Do not wait for a specific brand. Clinical trials have found the vaccines to be 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

Q: Do the vaccines require more than one shot?

A: The Johnson & Johnson Janseen vaccine only requires a single dose.  The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, given weeks apart, to get the most protection.

The first shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine starts building protection.  A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer.  The Pfizer-BioNTech doses should be given 3 weeks (21 days) apart.  Moderna doses should be given 1 month (28 days) apart. You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible.  However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.  You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.

With the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine, protection against moderate to severe disease starts about two weeks after being vaccinated.  

Q: Will a COVID-19 vaccination protect me from getting sick with COVID-19?

A: Yes.  COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19.

The first two vaccines approved for use in the U.S. – one by Pfizer-BioNTech, the other by Moderna – are known as mRNA vaccines and contain material from the COVID-19 virus that gives our cells instructions to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus.  After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine.  Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the COVID-19 virus if we are infected in the future.

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine employs a common cold virus genetically engineered to infect cells and deliver genetic instructions to stimulate an overwhelming immune response.  The vaccine uses the cold virus (called adenovirus type 26) to deliver a piece of genetic material (DNA) to make the distinctive “spike” protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.  The altered cold virus enters cells and follows the genetic instructions to replicate the coronavirus spike.  The body’s immune system can then use these replicas to recognize and to react defensively, triggering an immune response against the actual COVID-19 virus.

Q. Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?

A. Yes, if you are pregnant, you might choose to be vaccinated. Based on how COVID-19 vaccines work, experts think they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people because these vaccines have not been widely studied in pregnant people. Systems are in place to continue to monitor vaccine safety, and so far, they have not identified any specific safety concerns for pregnant people. Clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people are underway or planned.

Pregnant individuals can receive a COVID-19 vaccine in any setting authorized to administer these vaccines, including any clinical setting and nonclinical community-based vaccination sites, such as schools, community centers, and other mass vaccination locations. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talking with a health care provider may help you make an informed decision. While a conversation with a health care provider may be helpful, it is not required prior to vaccination.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

A: No.  None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.  This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

Q: Can I get more than one vaccine?

A: No. Current CDC guidance states that the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines are not interchangeable. You should not get more than one type of coronavirus vaccine, and you should not mix the two-dose vaccines.

Q: Is it possible to compare the effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines?

A: No. The only way to accurately compare the effectiveness of vaccines is by direct comparison in head-to-head clinical trials, which did not occur for these vaccines.  Furthermore, the clinical trials for these vaccines occurred in different geographic regions and at different points in time with varying incidence of COVID-19.

Q: Are there side effects from getting the vaccine?

A: You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection.  These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.  Common side effects include pain and swelling on your arm where you got the shot, and fever, chills, tiredness, and headache.

Q: How long before the vaccine provides immunity?

A: It typically takes a week or two for your body to build protection after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick.  This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Q: What can you do once you are fully vaccinated?

A: If you have been fully vaccinated and two weeks have passed since either your second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine, you can:

  • Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
  • Gather indoors inside a home or private setting without a mask or staying 6 feet apart with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together).
  • Travel in the United States and you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

  • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

If traveling internationally, you need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination.

  • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
  • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.
  • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
  • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.

Q: Once fully vaccinated, what should I keep doing to protect myself and others?

  • A: You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
    • In public
    • Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household.
    • Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

Q: Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

A: The COVID-19 vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccines because they have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be highly effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials.

Q: After I am vaccinated do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others?

A: Yes.  Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, but stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose, staying at least 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.  The combination of getting vaccinated and following public health recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.  

Q:  Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccines?

A:  Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.  However, vaccination providers can charge an administration fee for giving someone the shot.  Vaccination providers can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.  No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.

Q: What hospital treatments are there for COVID-19?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one drug, remdesivir, to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.  The FDA can also issue emergency use authorizations to allow health care providers to use products that are not yet approved, or that are approved for other uses, to treat patients with COVID-19 if certain legal requirements are met.  Any treatments that are used for COVID-19 should be prescribed by your health care provider.

In patients with severe COVID-19, the body’s immune system may overreact to the threat of the virus, worsening the disease and causing damage to the body’s organs and tissues.  The National Institutes of Health has recommended the use of dexamethasone, or a similar medication, to prevent or reduce injury to the body for some hospitalized patients and patients who need supplemental oxygen. 

Q: What about treatment outside the hospital?

A: If you receive a positive test result for COVID-19 and are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, your health care provider may recommend you receive treatment with two investigational monoclonal antibodies, which can help the immune system recognize and respond effectively to the virus – bamlanivimab and casirivimab plus imdevimab. These drugs are available under FDA issued emergency use authorizations for non-hospitalized patients at high risk of disease progression and severe illness.

Your health care provider also may recommend the following to relieve symptoms and support your body’s natural defenses:

Taking medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever. Drinking water or receiving intravenous fluids to stay hydrated. Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight virus.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?

A: Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene. A small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19.

Q: Can animals carry the virus that causes COVID-19 on their skin or fur?

A: Although we know certain bacteria and fungi can be carried on fur and hair, there is no evidence that viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets.

Q: What precautions should I take around my pet?

A: Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spready COVID-19 to people is considered low. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals. Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies. Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health. Be aware that children 5 years of age and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults are more likely to get sick from germs some animals can carry.

Q: Do I need to get my pet tested for COVID-19?

A:  No. At this time, routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is not recommended.

Q: What should I do if my pet gets sick and I think it’s COVID-19?

A:  There is a small number of animals around the world reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after having contact with a person with COVID-19. Talk to your veterinarian about any health concerns you have about your pets.

If your pet gets sick after contact with a person with COVID-19, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your veterinarian and let them know the pet was around a person with COVID-19. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care.

Q: Can I walk my dog?

A: Walking a dog is important for both animal and human health and well-being. Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals, do not gather in groups, and stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. Consider avoiding dog parks or public places where many people and dogs gather. To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk.

Q: What animals can get COVID-19?

A: We know that cats, dogs, and some other mammals can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, but we don’t know yet all of the animals that can get infected. CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Recent research also found that ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, mink, and tree shrews can become infected with the virus. Several animals in zoological facilities have tested positive for the virus, including large cats and great apes. It is suspected that these animals became sick after being exposed to employees with COVID-19, despite the staff following COVID-19 precautions.

Q:  Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?

A: We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. If you are sick, until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat your pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals and avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed. If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

Q: What should health care providers, laboratories and health departments do?

A: Health care providers and laboratories should report suspect COVID-19 cases immediately (within 3 hours) to their local health department, who should report cases to IDPH within the same time frame. For recommendations and guidance, see the IDPH Coronavirus Page or the CDC’s web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Q: What are public health departments in Illinois doing about this situation?

A: IDPH is working with local health departments and providers across the state to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition, IDPH and local health departments have implemented heightened surveillance to identify and to test patients most likely to have COVID-19, and, through contact tracing, Ietting people know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. IDPH is also communicating with and advising health care providers, other public health partners, and educators about the current situation, and issuing guidance to help protect the public. Frequent communication with the public will be available through the IDPH Coronavirus Page.

Find CDC Travel Information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Last Updated: 04/26/2021