COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before.
Because this is a new virus, there are still things we do not know, such as how severe the illness can be, how well it is transmitted between people, and other features of the virus. More information will be provided when it is available.
Many cases have mild or moderate illness and do not require a clinic visit and most do not require hospitalization.
Those at highest risk for severe illness include older people or those that have certain underlying health conditions. These include high-risk conditions like a blood disorder, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, compromised immune system, late term or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorders, metabolic disorders, heart disease, lung disease, neurological conditions. Check with your health care provider to see if you are considered high risk.
How it spreads
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It is also possible that 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. Washing your hands and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often is a good way to prevent you from getting COVID-19 from touching surfaces.
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms (when they are asymptomatic).
Masks or cloth face coverings can help with preventing your germs from infecting others – especially in situations where you may spread the virus without symptoms.
Wearing a mask does not protect you from others who may spread the virus. So, whether or not you wear a mask, you still need to wash your hands frequently, cover your cough, and practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet of space between people.
People who are sick should still stay home. Wearing a mask does not mean people who are sick should go out into the community. If you are sick and need to go to the doctor, call your health care provider before going in and wear a mask to the clinic.
Don’t buy or wear surgical or N95 masks. These supplies are in high need in health care facilities to protect health care workers.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Symptoms of COVID-19
People with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
shortness of breath
Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell.
These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
Testing for COVID-19
People who do not have symptoms should not be tested for COVID-19.
We are prioritizing testing for people who are ill and who: live or work in congregate settings (such as long-term care facilities), are at increased risk of severe disease, provide direct medical care, and provide child care.
Most clinics and hospitals across the state have the ability to collect samples (specimens) for lab testing.
Call your health care provider before going to the clinic or hospital to be tested.
MDH does not directly collect samples for testing; we receive the samples from providers and do testing in our public health laboratory.
There are some national laboratories (called commercial reference laboratories) that can test. Your health care provider may conduct testing through these laboratories. If you are tested for COVID-19, the clinic that did your testing will get the results to you.
Contact with someone who has COVID-19
If you are a close contact (e.g., household or intimate contact) of someone who was told by their health care provider that they have COVID-19, you should monitor your health for 14 days.
Stay home as much as possible.
Some people may be required to go to work.
Before you go to work, please work with your supervisor or occupational health staff to arrange ways for you to check your symptoms in the morning before you go to work.
If you do go to work, monitor for symptoms, wash your hands, and wipe down surfaces.
Health care workers should check with their employee health office or supervisor. See if you can be reassigned to non-direct patient care duties. If there is a shortage of health care workers and you must work, wear a surgical mask and practice good hand hygiene. In addition, do not see patients who are at high risk for severe disease if infected.