What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases

The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

How it Spreads

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person - between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • People are thought to be the most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their face. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 


The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

What You Can Do

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid exposure. 

  • Clean your hands often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or having touched surfaces in a public place.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, mouth, etc. 
  • Maintain social distancing (about 3 feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, phones, watches, keyboards, etc. 

What to Do if You Feel Sick

St. Louis County emergency operations has established a hotline number at (314) 615-2660. Please call if you believe you are symptomatic or have any questions regarding the virus. 

If you have respiratory or flu-like symptoms, the following steps should be taken:

  • Call your primary care physician’s office or local clinic immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested
  • Stay home except to get medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas if you are feeling sick. Avoid using public transportation

If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, the following steps should be taken:

  • Contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately