The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness that was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, with patients reporting cases of fever and acute respiratory illness. Since that time, other countries, including the U.S., have seen cases of the illness.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS and SARS. Many of the early patients in the pneumonia outbreak caused by COVID-19 in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, person-to-person spread is now occurring.
Person-to-person spread is believed to occur via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 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.
There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing. The latest situation summary updates are available on the CDC’s webpage Coronavirus Disease 2019.
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure.
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
As a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- 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.
- 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.
If you are in the state of Kentucky, please call the state COVID-19 hotline for an evaluation of your symptoms and guidance for your next steps: 800-722-5725.
Patients with fever and/or acute respiratory illness who have traveled in the past 14 days to an area affected by COVID-19, or who have had close contact with someone who is under investigation for, or lab-confirmed, with COVID-19 should seek medical attention.
You should call ahead before going to the doctor or emergency room, describe your symptoms and identify when you traveled to an affected area.