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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. Please visit our website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links provided on that page for additional information.
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COVID-19 is a virus strain, formerly referred to as novel coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Reports of illness from this virus are now found throughout the globe, including cases in St. Charles County.
People with COVID-19 illness report a wide range of symptoms, from mild or no ailments to severe illness. Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and include:
For additional information on symptoms, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The disease can spread in several ways. The virus is primarily passed from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are transmitted when a person with COVID-19 coughs, speaks or exhales. Some spread may be possible before people show symptoms. It is also possible to get infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus and then touching anywhere on your face.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure. The risk for catching COVID-19 depends upon with whom you have interacted. While anyone can catch COVID-19, safety measures such as staying home, practicing physical distancing and frequently washing hands and commonly touched surfaces can lower your risk.
A limited supply of vaccine is being distributed around the world. While the vaccines have shown a high level of effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 during their clinical trials, it’s important to remember that vaccine is just one part in the combination of tools available to help stop the pandemic. It’s necessary to continue to practice prevention recommendations to continue to limit the spread of this illness.Although most who become infected are able to recover at home, older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk for developing serious complications. If symptoms progress or if you experience emergency warning signs - such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, unexplained confusion, bluish lips or face or extremely high fever - please seek medical attention immediately. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and notify the dispatcher that you have, or think you may have, COVID-19.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure.
A limited supply of vaccine is being distributed around the world. While the vaccines have shown a high level of effectiveness in preventing the spread of and limiting severe illness from COVID-19 during their clinical trials, it’s important to remember that vaccine is just one part in the combination of tools available to help stop the pandemic. It’s necessary to continue to practice prevention recommendations, including:
Face coverings can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others, but only if they are worn and cared for correctly. The type of mask you choose isn’t nearly as important as when, where and how you wear it. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you wear a mask in public spaces, where social distancing isn’t easy to maintain – such as retail stores, pharmacies, workplaces and the like.
Wearing a face mask is only part of a toolkit to prevent the spread of illness in our community. Vaccination, practicing social distancing, washing hands and following additional prevention recommendations are all important parts of the process.
To be asymptomatic, it means you are not showing symptoms of having the illness. However, you could be carrying the virus without knowing it and without feeling or looking sick. Asymptomatic individuals may be able to spread the virus to others.
Community spread means that people have been infected with COVID-19 in an area and have passed along the virus to others in that area who have no other source for becoming infected.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease like COVID-19 and monitoring those people and those who they may have contacted to stop the spread of that illness.
Contact tracers work with individuals to make a list of people with whom they may have interacted while they were potentially contagious. Contact tracers then contact the people on the list, provide them guidance on next steps and further investigate who those individuals may have met. If there are others, the process starts again. Confidentiality is always maintained during this process.
Contact tracing has been used effectively to monitor and control the spread of illnesses like tuberculosis, HIV, Ebola, SARS, measles and other infections around the globe for many years.
Contact tracers will ask you a series of questions to help you remember with whom you may have contacted while you were contagious. They may ask where you work, where you have been, where you obtained food or other supplies, and with whom you visited. The more detail and honesty you can provide, the better the investigation.
Confidentiality is always maintained during this process. Contact tracers will never ask for Social Security Numbers, financial information or other unnecessary personal details.
Regular disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces is recommended. First, clean dirt from the area with a soap/water combination. Then, use products according to manufacturer’s recommendations or a bleach solution to kill the virus and make it unable to infect people.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a list of registered disinfectant products that are approved for use against the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Missouri Dental Association offer guidance for dental services.
The CDC is an excellent resource for up-to-date information on COVID-19. Here are FAQs answered on their website.
For additional questions, please call the St. Charles County Public Health COVID-19 Information Hotline at 636-949-1899.