Frequently Asked Questions


*COVID-19 Fact Sheet; English, SpanishRussian, Simplified ChineseHindi, and Polish.

Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Answer: There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses.  COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus not previously seen in humans. COVID-19 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, that has spread around the world, including the United States and all 50 states. The latest situation summary updates are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Q:  What is the source of the virus?

Answer: Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats.  Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside China, including the United States.

Q. What does it mean that COVID-19 is a Global Pandemic?

Answer: A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease.  Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people.  Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person.  Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide, including the United States, which has recorded cases in all 50 states.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-2019?

Answer: People who are infected with COVID-19 have developed mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and potentially respiratory distress 2-14 days after exposure. Call your health care provider for medical advice if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing.

Q: How does COVID-19 spread?

Answer: COVID-19 has been shown to spread between people. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, so CDC recommends these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on the severity of their illness) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. Human coronaviruses typically spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation, including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient. 

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 72 hours.

  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.

  • It has been at least 7 days since the onset of the patient’s illness.

This recommendation is to help prevent most, but may not prevent all, instances of secondary spread.  According to CDC, the risk of transmission after recovery is likely very substantially less than that during illness.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Q: Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

Answer: People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).  Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. There have been reports of this occurring with COVID-19, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Q: Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?

Answer: It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19.  Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.  At this time it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer.  There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

Q: What does the Governor’s stay at home order mean?

Answer: A stay at home order directs Illinoisans to stop movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. By limiting social interactions, the chance of spreading COVID-19 is greatly reduced.

Q: Why is this stay at home order necessary?

Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented health threat. If Illinois took no action to combat the spread, current modeling indicates many thousands of people in our state could die.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

Answer: No. Currently, there is not a vaccine for COVID-19.

Q: What are the treatments for COVID-19?

Answer: Currently, there are no specific treatments recommended for illnesses caused by COVID-19. Medical care is supportive to help relieve symptoms.

Q: What are public health departments in Illinois doing about this situation?

Answer: IDPH and local health departments have implemented heightened surveillance to identify and test patients most likely to have COVID-19. Public health experts are communicating with and educating health care providers and other public health partners about the current situation.  Measures are being developed to prevent the spread of illness in Illinois.  Frequent communication with the public will be available through the IDPH Coronavirus Page.

Q:  Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19? 

Answer:  COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

  • People aged 65 years and older

  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

  • People who have serious heart conditions

  • People who are immunocompromised 

    • Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications

  • People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥40)

  • People with diabetes

  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

  • People with liver disease

Q:  What should people at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 do? 

Answer:  If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies

  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others

  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick

  • Limit close contact and wash your hands often

  • Avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential travel

If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor. More information on how to prepare, what to do if you get sick, and how communities and caregivers can support those at higher risk is available on People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19.

Q:  How were the underlying conditions for people considered higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 selected? 

Answer: This list is based on:

  • What we are learning from the outbreak in other countries and in the United States.

  • What we know about risk from other respiratory infections, like flu.

As CDC gets more information about COVID-19 cases here in the United States, we will update this list as needed.

Q:  Are there any medications I should avoid taking if I have COVID-19? 

Answer:  Currently, there is no evidence to show that taking ibuprofen or naproxen can lead to a more severe infection of COVID-19.

People with high blood pressure should take their blood pressure medications, as directed, and work with their healthcare provider to make sure that their blood pressure is as well controlled as possible. Any changes to your medications should only be made by your healthcare provider.

Q:  What about underlying medical conditions that are not included on this list? 

Answer:  Based on available information, adults aged 65 years and older and people of any age with underlying medical conditions included on this list are at higher risk for severe illness and poorer outcomes from COVID-19. CDC is collecting and analyzing data regularly and will update the list when we learn more. People with underlying medical conditions not on the list might also be at higher risk and should consult with their healthcare provider if they are concerned.

We encourage all people, regardless of risk, to:

  • Take steps to protect yourself and others.

  • Call your healthcare provider if you are sick with a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

  • Follow CDC travel guidelines and the recommendations of your state and local health officials.

Q:  What does a well-controlled health condition mean? 

Answer:  Generally, well-controlled means that your condition is stable, not life-threatening, and laboratory assessments and other findings are as similar as possible to those without the health condition. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health or how your health condition is being managed.

Q:  What does more severe illness mean? 

Answer:  Severity typically means how much impact the illness or condition has on your body’s function.  You should talk with your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health or how your health condition is being managed.

Q:  Are people with disabilities at higher risk? 

Answer:  Most people with disabilities are not inherently at higher risk for becoming infected with or having severe illness from COVID-19.  Some people with physical limitations or other disabilities might be at a higher risk of infection because of their underlying medical condition.

  • People with certain disabilities might experience higher rates of chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness and poorer outcomes from COVID-19. Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities.

You should talk with your healthcare provider if you have a question about your health or how your health condition is being managed.

Source:  Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)