Updated May 6, 2020
“The respiratory disease COVID-19 is present around the world. For people in Wisconsin who are interested in better understanding the pandemic and the ways they can protect themselves, their families, and their communities, here are explanations for common questions and additional resources.
1. What is COVID-19? What causes it, and how does it spread?
COVID-19 is a new severe respiratory illness that emerged in central China in late 2019 and has since spread to scores of nations.
The disease was first identified in the U.S. on January 25, 2020, with the first infection in Wisconsin announced on February 5. On February 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. could be severe. Cases across the U.S. rapidly increased into the thousands in March. The agency is tracking cases in the U.S., with information about cases, deaths, and where potential infections are being tested.
The disease is caused by a novel coronavirus. This type of virus can cause several types of illnesses, including dangerous diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), as well as the common cold. COVID-19 infection can have relatively mild effects, but it causes more severe illness among some patients who contract it, and the disease can be fatal. The World Health Organization officially designated the name of the new virus as SARS-CoV-2, and on March 11 declared the widening public health crisis to be a pandemic.
The virus is understood to primarily spread through close contact between people via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Some people who are infected but do not appear to be ill can spread the virus, but it is thought that the sicker an individual is, the more contagious they are. People may also become infected after touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their face.
2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include cough and shortness of breath. People with two or more of the following symptoms may also have COVID-19: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell.
A majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 have mild or moderate flu-like symptoms. The risk of serious cases increases with age and for people with underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised.
3. Who is at risk of catching COVID-19?
Anybody who is exposed to the novel coronavirus may be at risk of contracting COVID-19, which is spreading in communities around the U.S.
People in communities where the virus is spreading have an elevated risk of exposure, according to the CDC. People at high risk of exposure include healthcare workers and those with close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Additionally, many infected individuals may not show symptoms but nonetheless could spread the virus through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.
4. What is the status of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and around the world?
Numerous cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Wisconsin, and the disease is spreading in communities. State, federal, and international public health agencies are working to provide up-to-date online information about the status of COVID-19:
- The Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains a COVID-19 informational page with guidance for the general public and healthcare workers. The agency also has an outbreaks and investigations page where members of the public can follow the status of testing and cases in the state.
- The Wisconsin Hospital Association is tracking data related to COVID-19 hospitalizations and the availability of beds, personal protective equipment, ventilators, and more around the state.
- The CDC maintains state-level data about COVID-19 cases and deaths.
- The WHO issues regular situation reports about the number and locations of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and information about public health protocols and research being conducted around the world.” excerpted from www.wisContext.com