What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The COVID-19 is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
Since December 2019, cases have been identified in a growing number of countries. The District’s surveillance data can be found here.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Public health authorities are learning more every day. We will continue to update as we learn more.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath
How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19
The symptoms that are currently being seen with COVID-19 are fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. To help prevent the spread of germs, you should:
- Multiple times a day, wash 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.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
- Stay home from work or school until you are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours and without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medications.
- Seek medical attention if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to coronavirus or influenza. Call your healthcare provider before visiting a healthcare facility.
You play an important role in stopping the spread of germs, view resources to share with your family, friends and within your community.
Higher Risk Populations
Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions. If you are in this higher-risk population, the CDC recommends that you:
- Stock up on supplies
- During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often
- Avoid crowds as much as possible
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel
Make a Plan
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on how to prepare your home and family for COVID-19. Recommendations include:
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
- Have supplies on hand
- Contact your healthcare provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time
- If you cannot get extra medications, consider using mail-order for medications
- Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home
- Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time
- If possible, choose a room in your house that can be used to separate sick household members from others. If someone in the household is sick, separate them into the prepared room
- If caring for a household member, follow recommended precautions and monitor your own health
If you are the family member or caregiver of someone at higher risk, you should:
- Know what medications your loved one is taking and see if you can help them have extra on hand
- Monitor food and other medical supplies (oxygen, incontinence, dialysis, wound care) needed and create a back-up plan
- Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand in your home to minimize trips to stores
Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
- It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
If you are a healthcare provider, be on the look-out for:
- People who recently traveled from China or another affected area and who have symptoms associated with COVID-19, and
- People who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or pneumonia of unknown cause. (Consult the most recent definition for patients under investigation [PUIs].)
If you are a healthcare provider or a public health responder caring for a COVID-19 patient, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure.
If you are a resident in a community where person-to-person spread of COVID-19 has been detected and you develop COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms.
For people who are ill with COVID-19, but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness.
If you have been in China or another affected area or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity for up to 14 days. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.
Learn more on the CDC website.