What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a virus strain that began spreading in people in December 2019.
Health experts are concerned because little is known about this new virus, and it can cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people.
COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans
and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
Formerly, this disease was referred to as "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV."
People who have confirmed COVID-19 infections have a range of symptoms, from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely sick and dying. Symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
The main way COVID-19 is spread to others is when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This is similar to how influenza is spread. The virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose. When someone coughs or sneezes, other people near them can breathe in those droplets. The virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it. If that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes the virus can make them sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you have been in China within the past two weeks and develop symptoms, call your doctor.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection, and there is currently no specific treatment. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
Take these steps to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
-Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before
eating and after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
-If you do not have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60%
alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
-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 using a regular household
cleaning spray or wipe.
Should we wear face masks when we are out in public?
At this time, healthy people in the general population do not need to use face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is not currently spreading in communities in the U.S.
There are specific situations where use of a mask may be recommended. Masks may be used by well people to protect themselves or by ill people to protect others. Situations where use of a mask may be appropriate include:
-To protect themselves, health care workers who are providing care to people with
respiratory symptoms use masks specifically designed for use in health care settings.
-To protect others, people who are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness (e.g.
cough, fever) and are going to a clinic for medical care are asked to wear a
surgical masks to prevent exposing other patients or health care providers to respiratory droplets. These are sometimes used in other public situations by ill people to protect others.
-Health care providers may recommend that some people who have weakened immune
systems wear face masks in public for protection from respiratory infections.
-To protect themselves, healthy people may choose to wear surgical masks if they are
caring for someone who is sick with a respiratory illness at home.
-In China, where transmission of COVID-19 is occurring in the community, face masks
are recommended for healthy people in the general population to help prevent the
spread of COVID-19. Since COVID-19 is not currently spreading in communities in the U.S., the CDC and Division of Public Health (DPH) do not routinely recommend the use of face masks for healthy people.
Should my child be wearing a mask to avoid catching coronavirus?
It’s not necessary for anyone to wear a mask during the normal course of their day. The best way to avoid COVID-19, or any virus, is to practice good health hygiene habits. These include:
Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap
and water aren’t available.
Cough and sneeze into tissues, or into your arm.
Stay home when you’re sick.
Flu is very active in Wisconsin and families should be taking precautions to avoid
influenza by following the instructions listed above and by getting flu shots.
What can you do to help if you have a student who is being asked to stay home from school by public health?
To reduce the impact of this request on students who are asked to stay home from school, public health may ask that schools make reasonable accommodations to allow these students to continue their studies remotely and/or make-up missed lessons or assignments, in accordance with your school district's attendance policy.
What can my school do to prepare in the event that COVID-19 becomes more widespread in our community?
We recommend all schools have a plan for what they can do in the event that COVID-19 becomes widespread in the community. The goals for your plan should be to reduce the spread of acute respiratory illnesses and minimize the impact of COVID-19 among your students and staff. Strategies should help in:
Protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications
Maintaining a healthy and safe environment where learning can occur
There are several resources, some originally developed for pandemic influenza, that you can use as you develop your COVID-19 plan as many of the strategies are the same.