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As COVID-19 rages through Illinois, answers to some commonly asked questions

Leslie Renken
Journal Star
Cars line up in a circle in the parking lot of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's mobile COVID-19 testing site, Friday, November 13, 2020, in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois is in lock-step with other states in the country as COVID-19 cases skyrocket.

Concerned about diminishing capacity for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, officials across the U.S. are considering different methods to control the viral spread through the population.

In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker is contemplating another lockdown.

“We are seeing current numbers and future projections worse than what we saw in the spring,” he said.

For now, the Illinois Department of Public Health is asking people to mostly stay home and venture out only for necessities such as shopping for food or keeping medical appointments.

Below are some answers to a few commonly asked questions about COVID-19.

What are COVID toes?

Discolored, swollen toes can be a symptom of COVID-19.

Though people of all ages have reported COVID toes among their symptoms, it’s most common in children and teens, according to the American Accademy of Dermatology Association. For some people, the condition can be painful or itchy, and others don’t feel anything out of the ordinary.

The condition may develop in the fingers as well, and is one of a large range of skin conditions that have presented in COVID-19 patients around the world. Typically the irritation goes away in 10 to 14 days, but some patients have it for months

What are coronavirus symptoms vs. flu symptoms?

It can be difficult to distinguish between COVID-19 and the common cold or flu or even seasonal allergies. They all can cause congestion, chills, body aches and cough.

According to the CDC, the main difference is that COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms, and they can be contagious for longer.

Because COVID-19 symptoms are similar to so many other conditions, the best way to diagnose it is to get tested.

What is the incubation period for COVID-19?

According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 14 days. Symptoms typically appear within four to five days from exposure.

How to know if you have COVID-19?

COVID-19 can present with a wide variety of symptoms, including fever or chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

Because these symptoms can be caused by other ailments, and because some COVID-19 patients have no symptoms at all, the best way to find out if you have COVID-19 is to get tested.

How long does coronavirus last on surfaces?

COVID-19 can last on surfaces from hours to days, according to the CDC.

Warmer temperatures and sunlight can reduce the time the virus can survive on surfaces or objects. Routine cleaning and hand washing are helpful when it comes to stopping the transfer of germs and are encouraged in the management of COVID-19, but experts believe the virus is transmitted primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets.

What is mutated coronavirus?

All viruses mutate, which means their genetic characteristics change as they move through the population. But those changes aren’t always a big deal, and in some cases mutations may actually lead to a weaker virus. Usually the changes are so slight there’s no noticeable difference in the disease’s transmission and fatality rates, according to Healthline.

Scientists have been studying how COVID-19 has been mutating and evolving as it has made its way around the world and they’ve found that the mutations have made the virus more contagious, but, fortunately, not more deadly, according to an article published last summer in the Washington Post.

How a virus mutates is important when it comes to developing a successful vaccine. A virus which doesn’t change quickly or drastically is easier to create a vaccine for. So far COVID-19 is showing a tendency toward slow, mild mutations.

When will COVID end?

While a COVID-19 vaccine will hit the market at some point, experts agree it will not immediately end the pandemic. It will take time for the vaccine to be produced and distributed.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered up some hope this week.

"There is an end to this," he said, according to USA TODAY. "If you have a very, very highly effective vaccine and we convince most of the people in the country to take the vaccine, we could get back to a degree of normality maybe by the end of 2021.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.