WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Your Questions Answered

March 13, 2020 - Katie McCallum

With the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases growing, you probably have a lot of questions. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and there are still many unknowns — but, we want you to be as informed and prepared as possible.

Dr. Ashley Drews, medical director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist, answers common questions you may have about COVID-19 below.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms of coronavirus are varied. Most people with coronavirus have a mild illness that is very similar to, and often indistinguishable from, the common cold.

In some people, the virus can progress and be more symptomatic — with symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

 

Who's at risk for developing coronavirus disease?

The people who are at highest risk to develop a more serious form of the illness are:

  • The elderly
  • People with underlying lung disease

 

How does coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus spreads from person-to-person. Whenever an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets carrying the virus are generated. If you inhale these infectious droplets, you can acquire the infection. You can also acquire the infection by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Can coronavirus live on surfaces?

Yes, coronaviruses can live on surfaces. It's unclear at this time exactly how long this coronavirus can live on surfaces, because it's new and still being researched. If it behaves like other coronaviruses, as we expect it will, it can live on surfaces anywhere from two hours to possibly up to two days.

What techniques should we use to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

The most important technique to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 is hand hygiene. It's important to use either an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

Other COVID-19 prevention techniques include:

  • Proper cough etiquette, which includes using a facial tissue when you cough or sneeze, disposing of the tissue and then sanitizing your hands afterwards
  • Avoiding large crowds
  • Avoiding touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Distancing yourself from those who are sick
  • Paying attention to your own person health, making sure you're getting enough rest and hydration

 

Will wearing a mask prevent me from getting coronavirus?

At this time, it's not recommended that healthy people wear a mask while out in the general public.

Who should get screened for coronavirus?

This is an evolving screening process because this epidemic is changing so quickly, and we're acquiring new information related to the coronavirus on a daily basis.

We're currently screening people who have:

  • Symptoms of the infection
  • Had exposure to either a person infected with the virus or who have traveled to an at-risk country or area
  • A severe respiratory illness that's otherwise unexplained

 

Our recommendations are in keeping with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and may change in the future based on new information.

What makes coronavirus dangerous?

Coronavirus can cause a viral pneumonia that in some people can progress to severe respiratory failure — which has the potential to result in death.

How is coronavirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus at this time. Currently, supportive care is the most appropriate form of treatment.

For mild cases, supportive care includes pain relievers and fever reducers. For more severe cases, people may be admitted to the hospital and administered supplemental oxygen, ventilator support and other supportive measures.

There is a lot of active research into a specific therapy for COVID-19, and there may be new treatments in the future.

Is Tamiflu effective against coronavirus?

Tamiflu is effective for the seasonal flu, but it is not effective against COVID-19 because it's new and still being researched.

 

Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.
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