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Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

(Most recent update: 8/3/2020)

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a respiratory virus (SARS-CoV-2) first identified in China in December 2019. COVID-19 is a new virus that hasn’t caused illness in humans before. It has since spread rapidly to countries worldwide, including the United States. This situation poses a serious public health risk. West Virginians at the state, private sector, community, and family level are working to reduce COVID-19’s effect on both our state’s health and its economy.

COVID-19 can cause mild to severe illness. Some people have little to no symptoms; many have mild disease, but can spread it to others. Severe illness typically, though not always, occurs in older adults or in those with chronic diseases. Social distancing and other community mitigation measures are one of our most powerful tools to reduce spread and protect each other, our families, and our communities.

How many cases are there in the Jefferson County area?
How does this disease spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spread from person-to-person via respiratory droplets. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others by coughing or sneezing. Patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 are being quarantined until their test results come in. If the result is positive the person will be isolated at home or in a hospital until they are no longer a risk to others.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Because most of these symptoms are common to many different illnesses, travel and contact history are very important in determining whether you may have COVID-19.

Should I be tested / How can I get tested?

If you are sick with any of the symptoms below call your healthcare provider to determine whether you need to be tested. Testing criteria is based on type and severity of symptoms, potential exposure to someone confirmed to have the disease, and your recent travel history. Because the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to seasonal cold and flu, you may need to be tested for more common respiratory illnesses first.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

WVU Medicine East has set up a triage call-center to help people who think they may need to be tested: call 304-596-2890. West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources also has a 24/7 hotline at 1-800-887-4304.

What should I do if I've been exposed to COVID-19?

If you’ve had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC’s guidance on self-quarantine. Stay home for 14 days after exposure, monitor your symptoms, and limit contact with vulnerable household members as much as possible.

Details here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html

Should I wear a surgical or N95 mask to protect myself in public?

Surgical masks, N95 masks, and respirators do the most good in the hands of healthcare professionals who are trained in their proper use and have undergone fit-testing. The global nature of this pandemic means these items are in short supply and must be reserved for medical personnel.

 

What about cloth face coverings?

By order of Governor Jim Justice, effective Tuesday, July 7, 2020 anyone age 9 or older must wear a a face covering in public indoor places where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Wearing a face covering outdoors in not required, but is encouraged.

Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others by preventing respiratory droplets from being sprayed in the air when you speak, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Click here to learn how to make cloth face coverings.

Is it safe to travel?

We recommend that everyone follow the Center for Disease Control’s travel advisories. These can be found on their website and are updated regularly.

What can I do to be prepared for possible community transmission in our area?

Some basic preparedness strategies that are helpful during a variety of emergencies:

What is JCHD doing now that there are confirmed COVID-19 cases in our county?

We have three public health nurses at the health department, and all are trained in epidemiology and disease investigations. They work closely with our regional epidemiologist to coordinate investigations across county and state lines when necessary. They are screening possible COVID-19 patients, which is exactly what their training and experience has prepared them for. Investigating these cases involves interviewing the patients to get a detailed list of where they have been and who they have interacted with. Anyone with a reasonable possibility of exposure is contacted, interviewed about their symptoms and travel, and given counseling and instructions as necessary. Contacts may be asked to simply monitor their symptoms and report them to us, to self-quarantine at home, or to be tested at a local hospital.

 

Where can I go to learn more about COVID-19?

The CDC has an in-depth FAQ page that is updated regularly: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

How can I get Alerts from the Health Department?

Visit our News & Alerts page to sign up and get emails directly from JCHD. You can also follow us on Facebook.

For other emergency alerts about Jefferson County, sign up for nixle.

What is the health department's role in pandemic preparedness?
  • Jefferson County Health Department maintains a high level of situational awareness by receiving health alerts from state and federal public health agencies and distributing them to local healthcare providers via the West Virginia Public Health Alert System.
  • We monitor all reportable diseases in Jefferson County residents, interview patients and potential contacts, and counsel patients on avoiding spreading diseases.
  • We meet regularly with emergency preparedness partners in Jefferson County, the state of West Virginia, and the National Capital Region to build and maintain strong working relationships that will help us coordinate response efforts during emergencies.
  • We prepare for pandemic or bioterrorism events by:
    • Regularly reviewing and updating our All-Hazards Plan, with emphasis on medical countermeasures and emerging infectious diseases
    • Participating in drills and exercises with local and regional partners to test and improve our capabilities to provide a scalable, flexible response to public health emergencies
    • Maintaining a Continuity of Operations Plan to ensure continuous provision of essential public health services during emergency situations
  • In the event a disease outbreak is suspected locally, JCHD coordinates with healthcare providers and the West Virginia Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology (DIDE) on laboratory testing, isolation and quarantine. If multiple West Virginia counties are affected, DIDE takes on a leadership role in investigating and developing recommendations for the public.
  • If many cases occur in Jefferson County and local resources are overwhelmed, our health officer is responsible for declaring a public health emergency and requesting state or federal assistance.
  • If a vaccine or medication is available, JCHD is responsible for distributing or administering it to the public as needed and appropriate. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other facilities serving vulnerable populations would be prioritized for distribution.

More information can be found on West Virginia’s COVID-19 website: coronavirus.wv.gov

Office of Environmental Health Services website: wvdhhr.org/oehs/public_health/COVID_19_Info.asp

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