Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) frequently asked questions
What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
It is a virus that belongs to a larger family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause mild illness like the common cold. In years past, two other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) have caused health problems here and abroad. Like them, COVID-19 requires heightened public concern and caution.
How does COVID-19 spread?
This virus is likely to spread:
- Person-to-person (which is thought to be the main way)
- By contact with infected surfaces or objects
Person-to-person can occur when people are within about 6 feet of each other. Airborne droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person can be breathed in by others nearby. A less likely way could be touching a surface or object with virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. (CDC)
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when symptoms make them very sick.
There have been reports of people without symptoms spreading the disease. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus seems to spread. (CDC)
How easily does the virus spread?
COVID-19 has spread easily and can remain in the community if not contained. "Community spread" means people who catch the virus are not sure how, where or when they were near someone who was sick with it. (CDC)
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
Aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea are less common.
In most cases, symptoms are mild and take effect slowly. Even after infection, some people show no symptoms and do not feel sick. Most people (about 80 percent) recover without needing special treatment.
Some people will become very ill and have trouble breathing and some may be at risk of dying. Like many other respiratory illnesses, more severe illness is likely among older people and those with medical problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of disease?
Protection measures for everyone
For most of us, COVID-19 may be a mild illness. For others, COVID-19 can be much more severe. To care for yourself and protect those at higher risk of contracting cold, flu and COVID-19, here are some simple, yet effective guidelines:
- Clean hands often with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Either method will remove the virus on your hands.
- Keep at least 6 feet away from any person who is coughing or sneezing. They may be spraying droplets that contain COVID-19 or some other virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in those droplets.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. One touch with dirty hands can infect you.
- Make sure you and others nearby practice good hygiene when you cough or sneeze. Droplets spread virus. Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue. Dispose of used tissue right away and then wash your hands.
- If you feel ill, stay home. If you have a fever, cough and trouble breathing, call your local clinic or Gundersen Telephone Nurse Advisor at (608) 775-4454 or 800) 858-1050. Those who answer will know where you should go for the right level of medical care.
Stay informed. How you should react to the spread of COVID-19 will change daily. A good place to get current information is the CDC website. Your healthcare provider, local public health department or employer will provide more information as it becomes available.
If you are in or have visited areas where COVID-19 is spreading within the last 14 days
- Follow the protection measures for everyone mentioned above.
- If you begin to feel ill, stay home. If you just have a headache, slight runny nose, or other mild symptoms, stay home until you recover. Avoid contact with others. Do not go to medical facilities. This will allow them to operate more effectively. Stay home to protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you develop fever, cough, and have trouble breathing, get medical advice by phone. You may have a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call ahead. Tell your provider about recent travel or contact with travelers. Your provider can quickly direct you to the right type of care. It will also help to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. (CDC)
What is the risk of COVID-19 for children?
See CDC Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children
What is the risk of COVID-19 in pregnancy and for newborn babies?
See CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Pregnancy
What is the risk of COVID-19 when breastfeeding?
See CDC Interim Guidance on Breastfeeding