COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)

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."

 

Track current Wisconsin investigation details on our Outbreaks in Wisconsin webpage.

 

Image of coronavirus floated

COVID-19 101

 Causes and Transmission

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in both humans and animals. There are currently seven strains of human coronaviruses that have been identified. Four of these strains are common and found in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the world. These common human coronaviruses typically cause a mild to moderate respiratory illness. Sometimes, new coronaviruses emerge.

2019 Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet

In 2019, a new strain of human coronavirus emerged, COVID-19. Illnesses associated with this virus were first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

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.

There is much more to learn about the spread, severity, and other features of this virus. To monitor COVID-19 in Wisconsin, please visit: Outbreaks in Wisconsin.

 Signs and Symptoms

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:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

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.

 Prevention and Treatment

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:

Respiratory Illnesses: Protect yourself and those around you.

  • 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.

More information can be found at: CDC COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

 Self-Quarantine and Self-Monitoring Guidance

Public health staff are receiving contact information for travelers returning from China on or after February 3, 2020, and are contacting them to see if they fit COVID-19 risk criteria developed by CDC. If they meet the risk criteria, public health staff give them the following instructions (depending on risk category) about self-monitoring and self-quarantine.

Public health staff are in frequent contact with people who are in isolation or quarantine to monitor their symptoms. Just because someone is isolated does not necessarily mean they are sick.

 Guidance for School Districts

What are the chances of my child getting this coronavirus?

The risk is remains low.

One of my students/staff recently visited China. Can they come to school?

  • Healthy people who have visited China and were in the U.S. before February 3, 2020, can go to school as they normally would.
  • If you have students or staff returning from China on or after February 3, 2020, public health staff will be notified by CDC, and will determine what level of precaution is needed for that person. Public health staff may advise that they stay home from school or work and take other precautions for a period of time after they return, even if they are well.

One of my students/staff had contact with someone who visited China. Can they come to school?

State and local public health authorities are contacting people in Wisconsin who may have been exposed to COVID-19 based on guidance from CDC, and those individuals are given specific instructions about whether they can go to school or work. Schools do not need to make that determination on their own. Unless your students/staff have been told by public health authorities to stay home from school because of their specific risk assessment, they do not need to be restricted from school.

Do I need to contact public health if I have a student returning from China?

  • No, current travelers from China are being routed through certain airports where they are screened for symptoms.
  • If travelers have symptoms and were recently in China, they will not be allowed to travel further. If they do not have symptoms, they will travel to their final destination. State and local health authorities will receive contact information of people within their jurisdiction who have recently traveled from China and will follow-up with them to monitor symptoms and ensure they are staying home, if necessary.

What is being done to keep us safe?

Currently, the risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Wisconsin is very low. That said, public health authorities at the federal, state, and local levels are working around the clock to reduce the risk to the public. We are working to quickly identify and test anyone who may be infected to ensure they receive the appropriate level of care, and are isolated to prevent any additional transmission. We are also coordinating with CDC to identify travelers from affected areas of the world and ensure they are screened for symptoms and are monitored appropriately in case they develop symptoms.

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.

For more information, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's COVID-19 webpage.

 Guidance for Employers

One of my staff recently visited China. Can they come to work?

  • Healthy people who have visited China and were in the U.S. before February 3, 2020, can go to work as they normally would.
  • If you have staff returning from China on or after February 3, 2020, public health staff will be notified by CDC, and will determine what level of precaution is needed for that person. Public health staff may advise that they stay home from work or work in an environment with limited public contact for a period of time after they return, even if they are well.

One of my staff had contact with someone who visited China. Can they come to work?

State and local public health authorities are contacting people in Wisconsin who may have been exposed to COVID-19 based on guidance from the CDC, and those individuals are given specific instructions about whether they can go to work. Workplaces do not need to make that determination on their own. Unless your employee has been told by public health authorities to stay home from work because of their specific risk assessment, they do not need to be restricted from work.

Do I need to contact public health if I have a staff member returning from China?

  • No, current travelers from China are being routed through certain airports where they are screened for symptoms.
  • If travelers have symptoms and were recently China, they will not be allowed to travel further. If they do not have symptoms, they will travel to their final destination. State and local public health agencies will receive contact information of people staying within their jurisdiction who have recently traveled from China and will call them to monitor symptoms and ensure they are staying home, if necessary.

What is being done to keep us safe?

Currently, the risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Wisconsin is very low. That said, public health authorities at the federal, state, and local levels are working around the clock to reduce the risk to the public. We are working to quickly identify and test anyone who may be infected to ensure they receive the appropriate level of care, and are isolated to prevent any additional transmission. We are also coordinating with CDC to identify travelers from affected areas of the world and ensure they are screened for symptoms and are monitored appropriately in case they develop symptoms.

What can you do to help if you have an employee who is being asked to stay home from work by public health?

In order to reduce the impact of missed work on employees who are being monitored, public health may ask employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to work from home or a protected area (e.g., closed office), depending on their level of risk and in coordination with the employer.

Adapted from CDC's Interim Guidance for Business and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19 webpage.

 Resources

Provider Information

 Reporting and Surveillance Guidance

The State Epidemiologist has declared COVID-19 a Category I reportable disease per a memo issued on Feb. 4, 2020.

  • Report IMMEDIATELY by TELEPHONE to the patient's local public health department upon identification of a confirmed or suspected case. The local health department shall then notify the state epidemiologist immediately of any confirmed or suspected cases. Within 24 hours, submit a case report electronically through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System (WEDSS), by mail or fax using an Acute and Communicable Disease case report, F44151 or by other means.

  • Information on communicable disease reporting

 Testing Criteria for Patients Under Investigation

The criteria for identifying patients under investigation as of February 11, 2020, can be found below. Collecting information on travel history is an essential part of routine patient assessment (see BCD numbered memo 2018-07). Each patient identified as a possible patient under investigation should be evaluated and discussed with DPH, particularly if their clinical presentation, travel history, or exposure is unclear. The patient under investigation guidance is subject to change based on updated information. Contact DPH immediately if you are notified of a patient that meets one of the following criteria:

Criteria to Guide Evaluation of Persons Under Investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 as of February 11, 2020*
Clinical Features AND Risk
Fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g. cough or shortness of breath) AND Any person, including health care workers, who has had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) AND A history of travel from Hubei Province, China within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) requiring hospitalization AND A history of travel from mainland China within 14 days of symptoms onset

*This is a rapidly evolving situation and guidance may change. Please check the CDC website for the current patients under investigation criteria.

 Infection Prevention and Provider Resources​

Last Revised: February 25, 2020