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

Find More Information About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Here

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

  • A: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.  Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in thousands of confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan, with additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries internationally. The latest situation summary updates are available on CDC’s web page Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Q: Is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) the same as the SARS virus or MERS?

  • A: No. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, but is similar in that it is causing respiratory illness.

Q: What are the symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

  • A: People who are infected with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have developed mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and potentially respiratory distress. There are many types of illnesses that can cause these types of respiratory symptoms. Individuals who have these symptoms and have had traveled to China in the last 14 days prior to symptom onset or have had close contact with someone with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) should be medically evaluated.

Q: Does Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread from person to person?

  • A: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been shown to spread between people. It’s not clear yet how easily 2019-nCoV spreads from person-to-person.  Human coronaviruses typically spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.

Q: How is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) diagnosed?

  • A: Diagnosis occurs through laboratory testing of respiratory specimens and serum (blood).  Some coronavirus strains cause the common cold and patients tested by their health care provider may test positive for these types. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) strain can only be detected at a public health laboratory.

Q: Can I still travel to China or other countries where Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases have occurred?

  • A: CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to China.The current CDC travel notice advises travelers to China to follow standard precautions, such as hand washing, avoiding contact with people who are ill, and avoiding animals.  The latest travel updates are available on CDC’s web page Traveler’s Health.

Q: What if I recently traveled to the outbreak area and got sick?

  • A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling to China, you should immediately call your local health department.  They will work with a healthcare provider to assess your symptoms.  If you seek medical attention, it is extremely important that you call before you go and describe your symptoms and travel history.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

  • A: CDC advises that people follow these tips to help prevent respiratory illnesses:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

  • A: No. Currently, there is not a vaccine for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Q: What are the treatments for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

  • A: Currently, there are no specific treatments recommended for illnesses caused by COVID-19. Medical care is supportive to help relieve symptoms.

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

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

  • A: IDPH and local health departments have implemented heightened surveillance to identify and test patients most likely to have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Public health experts are communicating with and educating health care providers and other public health partners about the current situation.  Measures are being developed to prevent the spread of illness in Illinois.  Frequent communication with the public will be available through the IDPH Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Page.

Q: What is active monitoring?

  • A: Active monitoring means that the state or local public health department communicates regularly with potentially exposed individuals to check for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. For people in Illinois with high-risk exposures, this communication occurs twice a day.

Q:What is a close contact?

  • A: A close contact is someone who has been within approximately six feet of a person confirmed to have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for a prolonged period of time without wearing protective gear, such as gowns and gloves. See CDC’s Interim Guidance for Healthcare Professionals for the definition of close contact.

Q: What does isolation mean?

  • A: Isolation means separating a person or a group of people who have symptoms of illness and are believed to be infected from people who are not infected in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Q: What is quarantine?

  • A: Quarantine, in general, means separating a person or a group of people who do not have symptoms of illness but are believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease, from other people in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Page Last Reviewed: February 14, 2020