COVID-19 Transmission, Symptoms and Prevention

For questions about COVID-19, please call the Information Hotline at 636-949-1899.

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COVID-19: Transmission and Symptoms 


Medical experts advise 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

Common Symptoms

The causative agent for COVID-19 is a coronavirus, and symptoms reported are similar to cold and flu suffers, including:

Symptoms are typically found 2-14 days following exposure. 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: 

  • Monitor them 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.
  • Schedule a test to detect infection by the virus that causes COVID-19.

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.

Cold vs Flu vs COVID 19_infographic

Prevention Tips

COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized and recommended for distribution around the United States. While the vaccines have shown a high level of effectiveness in preventing the illness during their clinical trials, it's important to remember that are just one part of the combination of tools available to help stop the pandemic. 

Along with receiving the vaccine, it's important that we follow recommended preventative actions 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 face covering to help stop the spread.
  • Improve the ventilation, if spending time indoors.
    • If safe to do so, open windows and/or doors to being in fresh air.
    • Improve the filtration of the HVAC system and change filters according to manufacturer's recommendations.
    • Use an exhaust system to improve ventilation.
    • Use ceiling fans or other fans to move air, but make sure this air is not directed at individuals within the facility. 

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

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 are a caretaker 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 to practice the precautions listed above especially with the most vulnerable.