What is coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new virus that has only spread in people since December 2019. The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, and cases have been detected around the world including the United States. Public health officials worldwide are working to slow the spread of coronavirus disease. Our region has cases in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. For the most up to date information about COVID-19 cases in Virginia, visit the Virginia Department of Health website.
How severe is coronavirus disease?
Coronavirus disease cases have ranged from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization. Some deaths have occurred.
How does coronavirus disease spread?
Coronaviruses, like other respiratory viruses, spread from an infected person to others through:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes
In some locations where there are diagnosed cases of COVID-19, there are some people infected the virus who are not sure how or where they became infected. This is called “community spread” and it means that COVID-19 is not just occurring in people who have traveled from other countries but is present in the community.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
People who have been diagnosed with coronavirus disease have reported symptoms that may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus and include:
- Difficulty breathing
Who is at risk for coronavirus disease?
At this time, the following people have an increased risk of infection:
- People who have (or had) close contact with people diagnosed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Health care workers who cared for with patients diagnosed with COVID-19
- Travelers returning from places (foreign and domestic) where COVID-19 is widespread
- People who live in places where there is community spread (meaning people are diagnosed with COVID-19 but unsure how they got it) are at a slightly increased risk of exposure.
Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, including:
- Older adults, with risk increasing by age
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease
How can I get tested for COVID-19?
Testing is available through your health care provider. Please see our testing page for additional details.
How can I find out if I encountered someone who has COVID-19?
When a resident of Fairfax County tests positive for COVID-19, the Health Department will conduct a ‘contact investigation’ which means we reach out to anyone who has been in close contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19. Our aim in doing a contact investigation is to prevent the spread of disease. Individuals will receive specific instructions on how to monitor their health. These are the same public health actions we take to stop the spread of all types of diseases, including tuberculosis, measles, or meningitis. If you know that you had close contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, you should contact your healthcare provider. Watch this video on contact investigations to learn more.
How is the Health Department monitoring coronavirus disease in Fairfax County?
When the Fairfax County Health Department is alerted of a COVID-19 test, we commence a contact investigation which enables us to identify at-risk contacts of a diagnosed individual. Learn more about this process.
How can I prevent from getting coronavirus disease?
The CDC has issued travel notices for places where the virus is spreading. Travelers should review the CDC’s guidance for more information.
Steps you can take to prevent spread of flu and the common cold will also help prevent coronavirus disease:
- wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
- avoid contact with people who are sick
- stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others
Currently, there are no vaccines available to prevent coronavirus disease. The CDC does not recommend that people who are not sick wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses. Rather, masks should be reserved for people who are sick so they can protect others from getting infected.
How is coronavirus disease treated?
Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some cases develop pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization. There are no medications specifically approved for coronavirus disease.
What is Fairfax County doing to prevent the spread of illness?
- The Fairfax County Health Department is monitoring the community for COVID-19: We are working closely with health care providers, and public health and safety partners to quickly identify people who may have been exposed to coronavirus disease.
- We are taking appropriate public health actions: The Health Department works with COVID-19 patients, their medical provider, and their family to isolate the individual and take other appropriate public health actions.
- The Health Department is conducting “contact investigations” as needed: We will reach out to anyone who has been in close contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 to prevent disease spread. They receive specific instructions on how to monitor their health. These are the same actions we take to stop the spread of all types of diseases, including tuberculosis, measles, or meningitis.
- The Health Department created information resources for Fairfax County residents to get up-to-date coronavirus disease information:
- Information desk: +1 (703) 267-3511
- Text FFXCOVID to 888777 for text updates
- Website: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus
What happens during a contact investigation?
When we learn of a case, we conduct a formal ‘contact investigation’ and find the people the infected person met and places they visited. This is the same system we use in measles and TB outbreaks. Anyone who we identify as having an exposure where COVID-19 could be spread is asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and during that time we periodically check up on them. If there are gathering places or events where, based on talking with the patient, there appears to be a risk of transmission, we will notify the community. Watch this video to learn more about contact investigations.