March 2, 2020…
COVID-19: What You Need to Know
What is COVID-19?
March 2, 2020…COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. People who get sick with COVID-19 develop mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Illness can begin 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Although you may hear COVID-19 referred to simply as “coronavirus,” this is not entirely accurate. There are many types of coronaviruses, including the common cold. COVID-19 has caused concern among global health experts because it is new, and because its symptoms can become severe in some cases.
What are the symptoms?
COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms, including a cough and a fever. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions can be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
How are people infected with COVID-19?
COVID-19 can spread from person to person and is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. As with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they have the most symptoms.
What if I believe I have been exposed to COVID-19?
At this time, the biggest risk of exposure is for people who have recently traveled to a part of the world where COVID-19 is widespread. If you traveled to those areas and are experiencing symptoms, do not go immediately to a hospital or clinic. Instead, call your physician for instructions. This will limit the number of people who are exposed to your illness.
What can I do to prevent COVID-19?
It’s important to remember that we are also in the midst of a very severe flu season. The same prevention methods for the flu also apply to COVID-19. They include:
- Use proper handwashing technique. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; or after going to the bathroom. If your hands are not visibly soiled, you could also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of it immediately.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly your nose, mouth and eyes.
- Stay home when you are sick, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Experts do not recommend wearing a face mask to protect yourself from respiratory disease. However, if you have symptoms, a mask can help prevent spreading your illness to others. Healthcare workers caring directly for patients with respiratory illness also use these masks.
How is Memorial Health System preparing for possible cases of COVID-19?
We are following all the current and updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Recognizing the evolving nature of this situation, we continue to monitor and update our protocols to respond to any new recommendations from the CDC/IDPH and, if necessary, we will go above and beyond them.
All patients are screened appropriately at every site of care throughout the health system, including all five hospitals and all of our primary care settings. Our hospitals regularly prepare for all types of emergencies and have plans and processes, equipment and supplies in place to care for our patients, including those with infectious diseases.
Where can I get reliable information about COVID-19?
It’s important to get updates from trusted sources, as posts on social media are not always accurate and may cause unfounded panic. For the most up-to-date information, visit the COVID-19 online information centers established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched a coronavirus hotline and website to answer questions about the coronavirus and where people can report suspected cases of the disease.
Hotline number: 1-800-889-3931