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Overview

2019 novel coronavirus is a newly identified coronavirus that is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness. It was first identified in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Since then, the virus has been identified in multiple countries, including cases in the U.S. and in Illinois.

The virus has been designated SARS-CoV-2, while the disease it causes has been designated COVID-19.

Because it is so widespread, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.  Most often, spread from person to person happens among close contacts (within about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. This video from the World Health Organization explains coronaviruses.

Because this is an evolving situation, you are encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for updated information.

Symptoms

The virus may cause severe illness; however, the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Symptoms are quite generic but include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure.  Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death.

The virus seems to spread easily and it is thought the main way the virus is spread is by person-to-person.  This means between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  It is possible it may also be spread by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Treatments and Prevention

Since there is currently no vaccine to prevent infection, the best way method of prevention is to avoid being exposed to this virus. As a reminder, CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe, preferable those with bleach.

This page is intended to provide information about the novel coronavirus, precautions that are being taken and prevention measures you can take, as well as information on the effects of measures various governments are taking to stem the outbreak.

This page is not intended to be all-encompassing and should not be considered to be providing medical or legal advice. In all instances, you should consult with a relevant expert for guidance specific to your circumstances.