Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
For the most up-to-date information, see the CDC's web site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
The following information is adapted from Village Medical in Houston to help keep our patients and employees informed about COVID-19.
COVID-19 Patient Self-Assessment Tool
If you have symptoms of respiratory illness (e.g., fever of 100F or higher, cough and/or shortness of breath), answer the following questions:
1. Have you recently traveled outside the country? Current countries at high risk include all Asian countries, Italy, and Iran.
2. Have you been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have the COVID-19 illness? Close contact is defined as within 6 feet for 3 minutes or more.
If you answered yes to one or both of these questions and have respiratory symptoms:
Updated on March 2, 2020
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new variant of a common family of viruses called coronaviruses. These viruses typically cause respiratory tract infections ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Though most commonly found in animals like cattle, cats, and bats, some coronaviruses can infect and spread between humans, such as COVID-19 and SARS.
How is it transmitted?
Just like the flu, the coronavirus is spread through coughing, sneezing and close personal contact with other people.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms related to COVID-19 infection range from mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Most patients have fever, cough, and body aches. In more severe infections, symptoms may include shortness of breath and/or pneumonia. Symptoms typically appear between two and 14 days after exposure to an infected person.
Am I at risk?
The risk to you remains very low. Those at highest risk have recently traveled to countries including China and South Korea, followed by Iran, Italy and Japan. People who have had close personal contact with travelers to these countries who now exhibit respiratory symptoms are also at a higher risk. At this point, you are at far greater risk of contracting the flu (get your flu shot today; it is not too late), which in 2018-2019 led to 34,000 deaths in the U.S.
Where has COVID-19 been detected?
Currently, COVID-19 has been detected in over 60 countries. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar reported on Sunday, March 1 that there were 23 cases in the United States not associated with the repatriation of American citizens from overseas. More and more states are reporting cases of COVID-19 to CDC. The first reported COVID-19 death in the United States was reported in the state of Washington on Sunday, March 1.
Should I wear a face mask when I am in public?
Face masks for the general public are not recommended. American Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, has shared that face masks are not effective in the prevention of COVID-19. In fact, the purchase of face masks by the general public is creating a shortage for those most in need: healthcare workers caring for patients with known or suspected infection. The government has now contracted 3M to produce an additional 30 million face masks per month to meet growing use.
What is the current risk assessment?
For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
- People in communities where the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated, though still relatively low, risk of exposure.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 are also at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure.
How can I prepare?
COVID-19 risk should be managed like other potential disruptions to your daily activities: prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure you have at least a two-week supply of critical medications and supplies necessary for good hygiene.
What treatments are available?
There are currently no medications or vaccines approved for the treatment of COVID-19. A National Institute of Health (NIH) randomized and controlled clinical trial of a medication for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but is not available to the public. In the absence of a vaccine or medication, good hygiene practices remain the primary method to address wide-spread transmission and supportive care remains the only medical treatment.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
How will this affect my travel?
The CDC urges travelers to avoid all non-essential travel to China. The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory asking people not to travel to China due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you must travel to China, the CDC recommends protecting yourself by doing the following:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Discuss travel to China with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.
- Avoid animals (live or dead), animal markets and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating, as well as after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
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