Chicago's Coronoavirus Case: What You Need To Know | WBEZ
Skip to main content


The Chicago Coronoavirus Case: What You Need To Know

The coronavirus has arrived in Chicago.

Health officials said Friday that a Chicago woman in her 60s is the first local case of the new pneumonia-like virus that’s sickened hundreds in China. The unidentified woman is the second known case in the U.S.

Officials emphasized that the risk of transmission to the general public is low. Here are some answers to other key questions about the virus:

What’s the Chicago case?

The woman flew back to Chicago without showing any signs of illness, but a few days later she called her doctor to report feeling sick. She’s currently hospitalized and “doing well,” according to Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. The woman had limited contact with people after she returned to Chicago, and she did not use public transportation. People she did have close contact with are being monitored.

What is this specific virus?

This is a new strand of coronavirus called 2019-nCoV, which is shorthand for "2019 novel coronavirus." Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses, including some that can cause respiratory illness in people. Coronaviruses start in animals and usually don't transmit to humans, but sometimes a virus mutates and moves from animals to people. It spreads through people-to-people contact. The new virus was first detected in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China.

How serious is it?

The situation “is still unclear,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. The cases in China have ranged from mild illness to death. More than 800 cases have been confirmed in China and there have been dozens of fatalities. The World Health Organization says most of the cases in China involve people over the age of 40 and the fatalities have been among people with other health issues.

The CDC says the risk to the U.S. public remains low, but it's likely more cases will be diagnosed in the coming days as the virus appears to have a two-week incubation period.

How does it spread among people?

Pretty much like the common cold. Chicago health officials say coronaviruses are usually spread via droplets in the air, such as when sick people cough and sneeze.

What are the symptoms?

Fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The signs can be seen in two to 14 days after exposure.

Is it treatable?

There’s no recommended vaccine or other treatment, the CDC says.

What precautions should I take?

There’s nothing specific to the coronavirus, Chicago health officials say, but they recommend normal steps to avoid the spread of respiratory viruses. Those include washing hands frequently; avoiding close contact with sick people; covering your cough or sneeze; and not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

What if I want more info?

See the CDC’s web page on the coronavirus. The Chicago Department of Public Health also has a web page on the virus.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.