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.

  • Yes
  • No

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.

  • Yes
  • No

If you answered yes to one or both of these questions and have respiratory symptoms:

  • Stay home and call the office. A patient representative will take your information and have a healthcare provider contact you within 24 hours to provide additional information and discuss the best options for you.
  • If you believe your symptoms are life threatening, go to the nearest hospital emergency department. We recommend that you call the emergency department immediately so the staff can provide you with arrival instructions.
  • If you do not have respiratory illness symptoms, please refer to information below or contact your local health department.

Updated on April 8, 2020

General COVID-19 Information

About the COVID-19 coronavirus

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 COVID-19 is transmitted

Just like the flu, the coronavirus is spread through coughing, sneezing and close personal contact with other people. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. 

 

Where COVID-19 has been detected

COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in every state in the United States and in more than 200 countries worldwide. CDC continues to update the world map.

 

COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms related to COVID-19 coronavirus infection range from mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Most patients have fever, tiredness, dry cough and body aches. In more severe infections, symptoms may include shortness of breath and/or pneumonia. Some patients may have nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Symptoms typically appear between two and 14 days after exposure to an infected person.


Available COVID-19 treatments

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

 

How to protect yourself

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend avoiding travel to China and practicing good hygiene in the same way you would protect yourself against the flu:

  • 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.

 

Guidance on the wearing of face masks if well

  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover (covering both mouth and nose) whenever going out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Continue to keep 6 feet between yourself and others, as the cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

 

The current risk assessment

The immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most Americans, but as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase. Cases of COVID-10 and instances of community spread are being reported in a growing number of states. At this point, there is both a risk of exposure and risk of severe illness.

People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location. Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure. Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure. Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have heart disease with complications
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [(BM]I)≥40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk

 

How to limit your risk of contracting COVID-19

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Person-to-person spread:

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects:

  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

 

Other ways to prepare

There are preventative actions you can take every day:

  • Know where to find local information on COVID-19 and local trends of COVID-19 cases.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if asymptomatic
    • Stay home when you are sick
    • Call your health care provider’s office in advance of a visit
    • Limit movement in the community
    • Limit visitors
  • Take steps for those at higher risk
  • Protect yourself and family
  • Create a household plan
    • Create a household plan of action in case of illness in the household or disruption of daily activities due to COVID-19 in the community.
    • Consider a 2-week supply of prescripti0n and over the counter medications, food and other essentials. Know how to get food delivered if possible.
    • Establish plans to telework, what to do about childcare needs, how to adapt to cancellation of events.
  • Stay informed about emergency plans.

 

Testing not recommended if you’re feeling well

Asymptomatic individuals are not recommended to be tested for COVID-19, regardless of exposure history.

 

Travel implications

The Department of State has advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. 

Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips.  If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. However, cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been reported in many states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase chances of getting COVID-19, if there are other travelers with coronavirus infection.

The CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.  This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply. 

Things to consider before travel:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you’re going?
    If COVID-19 is spreading at your destination, but not where you live, you may be more likely to get infected if you travel there than if you stay home. If you have questions about your destination, you should check your destination’s local health department website for more information.
  • Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?
    Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like coronavirus may increase in crowded settings, particularly closed-in settings with little air circulation. This may include settings such as conferences, public events (like concerts and sporting events), religious gatherings, public spaces (like movie theatres and shopping malls), and public transportation (like buses, metro, trains).
  • Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severe illness if you get COVID-19?
    People at higher risk for severe disease are older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes). CDC recommends that travelers at higher risk for COVID-19 complications avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel.
  • Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?
    If you have close contact with someone with COVID-19 during travel, you may be asked to stay home to self-monitor and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel. If you become sick with COVID-19, you may be unable to go to work or school until you’re considered noninfectious. You will be asked to avoid contact with others (including being in public places) during this period of infectiousness.
  • Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?
    If you get sick with COVID-19 upon your return from travel, your household contacts may be at risk of infection. Household contacts who are older adults or persons of any age with severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Is COVID-19 spreading where I live when I return from travel?
    Consider the risk of passing COVID-19 to others during travel, particularly if you will be in close contact with people who are older adults or have severe chronic health conditions These people are at higher risk of getting very sick. If your symptoms are mild or you don’t have a fever, you may not realize you are infectious.


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