COVID-19 Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
For questions about COVID-19, please call the Information Hotline at 636-949-1899.
COVID-19: Transmission, Symptoms and Concerns
Public health departments and medical professionals across the globe are closely monitoring and responding to an expanding global outbreak of (COVID-19). The illness was caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since that initial reporting, illnesses related to this virus have been detected on every continent except Antarctica.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and in different animal species. In humans, these viruses are associated with respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
As COVID-19 is a newly discovered disease, further investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations is underway to confirm all possible transmission pathways. However, medical experts note that human coronaviruses are most commonly spread through:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Close personal contact with infected persons
- Touching an object or surface containing the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands
People are thought to be most contagious when they display symptoms, but further investigation on the ability to spread the virus without showing symptoms is necessary. Those who are at elevated risk for exposure to the virus include:
- Healthcare workers
- Those who are close contacts of infected persons
- Travelers returning from affected geographic areas
The causative agent for COVID-19 is a coronavirus, and symptoms reported are similar to cold and flu suffers, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Additional symptoms as reported by the CDC on April 26, 2020
While investigation of COVID-19 continues, symptoms are typically found 2-14 days following exposure based on previous human coronavirus illnesses.
Illness reports from COVID-19 patients range from infected individuals with little or no symptoms to those who are severely ill and those who have died. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease and other respiratory ailments appear to be at a greater risk for developing severe illness.
If You Have Symptoms/Have Testing Questions About COVID-19:
- Monitor your symptoms for change or severity.
- Call your doctor’s office or local clinic, undergo an online virtual screening through medical providers or call the St. Charles County COVID-19 Information Hotline at 636-949-1899 for guidance.
- Your doctor may recommend self-quarantine or isolation. Be prepared in advance should these be necessary.
- Do NOT go to the emergency room or urgent care unless your symptoms are severe. If your symptoms are severe enough to go to the emergency room, call ahead or call 911. Going without notifying them could take valuable resources away from those with the most critical needs and put their health at risk with a secondary infection.
- If you require testing, you must call ahead to receive further direction; do not show up at a testing site without calling first. A list of mobile testing sites to contact is available online through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
- An interactive map of testing sites from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Click on the tab marked Interactive Map, and use the plus/minus tabs to focus on the specific county/area you seek.
Prevention and Treatment Tips
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection, nor is there a specific recommended treatment. Supportive care to relieve symptoms and maintain hydration is suggested. Individuals who believe they may be exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider and call ahead prior to attending the medical appointment. Diagnostic testing is available for those who meet specific criteria.
The best way to prevent this illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventative actions for this and other respiratory illnesses, including:
- Regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying hands thoroughly.
- Using a 60% or greater alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces with household sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Staying home when sick, except to seek medical attention.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Prepare for possible isolation requirements by collecting personal and family emergency supplies
- Know employer, school and childcare attendance/sick-leave policies.
- Wear a cloth face covering to help stop the spread.
- Those who have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing or difficulty breathing) and who have suspected COVID-19 infection should wear a medical mask around others.
Practice Social Distancing
The term “social distancing” is being used often when talking about COVID-19 and it is highly recommended to limit the spread of this disease. The term means keeping your distance from other people in order to keep from catching or spreading the virus. The St. Charles County Public Health Department recommends keeping a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible. Avoid handshakes, fist-bumps, hugs, and kisses, as well as touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
Protect the Most Vulnerable
Most people who are infected with the illness will experience mild symptoms, but there is a serious threat for those who are most vulnerable to the disease. Some will become very ill and some will die.
Those most vulnerable include people 60 years of age and older and people with chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. If you care for those who are in these groups, monitor them for these COVID-19 symptoms: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, persistent chest pressure or pain, new confusion or lethargy, bluish lips, face or fingertips. If these symptoms present themselves, call their doctor’s office and follow his or her instructions. Do not go to an emergency room or urgent care without first speaking with the doctor’s office. If you can’t reach them, call the Department of Public Health or 911.
It is important that we take precautions with those most vulnerable by doing practical things in the spirit of common good:
- Offer to get groceries and run errands for neighbors who are in this most vulnerable group.
- Respect the visiting restrictions at senior living facilities and nursing homes.
- Help people with chronic conditions avoid crowds by suggesting alternatives.
If you are a family member or caregiver of someone in this most vulnerable group:
- First and foremost, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds.If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Monitor food and medical supplies needed and create a back-up plan.
- Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand to minimize trips to the store.
- Practice social distancing. Refrain from kissing, hugging, touching, handshaking and even fist bumping.
Similarities and Differences Between COVID-19, Influenza and the Common Cold
COVID-19, influenza (the flu) and the common cold are all contagious respiratory illnesses spread by viruses; but these are all caused by different viruses. Because the three share many symptoms, testing is the most effective way to confirm diagnosis.
There are many similar symptoms among the three, but some key differences as well. The most important difference is the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading faster and leading to more severe health problems than associated with the other viruses. Another key difference between influenza and COVID-19, is that an annual flu shot is available to help minimize the spread and severity of influenza.