CORONAVIRUS 2019 (COVID-19) – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

March 19, 2020

CORONAVIRUS 2019 (COVID-19) – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other locations internationally, including the United States. In addition to CDC, many public health laboratories are now testing for the virus that causes COVID-19.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses have caused more severe illness, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus (responsible for COVID-19) that was not identified in humans before December 2019.

What are the common symptoms of COVID-19 illness?

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  It takes 2 to 14 days after a person gets the virus in their body to become ill. Novel coronavirus is new, and we are learning more each day about symptoms it causes and how long it takes for people to become sick.

How does the virus spread?

Most often, it is spread from person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory pathogens spread.  These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It’s currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.  Often, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest) but there is some indication of spread by individuals who are not exhibiting typical symptoms.

Who should seek medical evaluation for COVID-19?

If you are:

  • Ill with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND have travelled from an affected area in the last 14 days
  • Ill with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND have been identified by Public Health as a recent close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or had recent close contact with someone who is being evaluated for COVID-19 infection.

Check for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting working day and notify your supervisor if you need to stay home if you are sick. If you contracted symptoms during the working day, contact your supervisor, put a face mask, and avoid contact with other people. Your supervisor will advise you on further actions.

Should staff delay or suspend travel to affected areas?

Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which employees may travel. This can be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html

Ensure employees who become sick while travelling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.

What can we do to prevent COVID-19 illnesses in our workplace?

Seek medical evaluation for COVID-19

If you are:

  • Ill with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND have travelled from an affected area in the last 14 days
  • Ill with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing AND have been identified by Public Health as a recent close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or had recent close contact with someone who is being evaluated for COVID-19 infection.

Sick employees are encouraged to stay home:

  • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

You are encouraged to check for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting working day and notify your supervisor if you need to stay home if you are sick.

If you contracted symptoms during the working day, contact your supervisor, put a face mask, and avoid contact with other people. Your supervisor will advise you on further actions.

  • Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).

Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:

  • Always have tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Clean your hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

Perform routine environmental cleaning:

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, your car, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, mobile phones, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use
  • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor. Family medical leave or other legal contracts may apply.
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

 

You can find the current Texas case count on the News Updates page. The Texas Department of State Health Services is tracking cases of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. DSHS will update the state case count each day by noon Central Time. Numbers are current as of 8 p.m. the day before reporting. Information regarding the situation in Illinois can be found at http://dph.illinois.gov/covid19. Information to be updated Daily.