Updated 4/6/2020

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new member of the virus family called coronaviruses. Coronaviruses as a family are responsible for causing respiratory infections, such as the common cold, and, in that sense, COVID-19 is no different than others. The difference with COVID-19 is that it seems to be more likely to cause serious respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, and death, than the other coronaviruses.

 

What caused the coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus (COVID-19, previously referred to as 2019-nCoV) emerged in a seafood and poultry market in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2019. The disease was originally contracted from close contact with an infected animal and then started to move from human to human.

 

How does the virus spread?

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person. These droplets enter the air through a cough or sneeze and pass into another person through the nose, mouth, eyes or any mucous membrane. The usual method of spread is through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands with an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Objects and surfaces can also carry the virus to another person. Rarely the virus can spread to another person through contact with infected feces (stool).

 

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

Yes. A person can be infectious to others for a few days before they actually develop symptoms.  In addition, many patients have very mild or no symptoms and do not feel sick. Even in these cases, the infected person can infect others.

 

When should I wear a face mask?

Face masks are of most value when they are worn by an infected person through limiting the transmission of their respiratory droplets to others. Unfortunately, recent data shows that a person can infect others even before symptoms appear, so the CDC recommends that every person wear a face mask when they are around other people in public. If a medical face mask is not available, a suitable mask can be fashioned from cloth or a bandanna or scarf can be used.

 

Will warm weather stop the outbreak?

COVID-19 is a new virus, so its exact behavior is not yet known. Experts hope that it will follow the pattern of other similar viruses, which are much less common in warm weather.

 

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?

  • fever
  • cough
  • fatigue
  • phlegm
  • difficulty breathing
  • headache

COVID-19 can cause other illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. This is more common in individuals with heart and lung disease, those with weakened immune systems and older adults.

 

What should I do if I am experiencing flu-like symptoms?

If your symptoms are mild, stay home and isolate yourself until you are 72 hours fever free. Those with chronic medical conditions, compromised immune systems and the elderly should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or feeling overly lethargic, or bluish lips, contact the emergency room and seek care immediately.

In addition, a person with flu-like symptoms should make every effort to limit the spread of the infection to others. Below are steps you can take to help prevent infection:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • clean and disinfect objects and surfaces
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home while you are sick

 

What should I do if I am experiencing flu-like symptoms and have been exposed to a person or area with COVID-19?

If your symptoms are mild, stay home and isolate yourself until you are 72 hours fever free. Those with chronic medical conditions, compromised immune systems and the elderly should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or feeling overly lethargic, or bluish lips, contact the emergency room and seek care immediately.

 

What should I do if I had close contact with someone infected but am not experiencing symptoms?

Currently, without symptoms, you would not qualify for specific testing. You should limit your contact with others, especially those in the high-risk groups of the elderly and immunocompromised and monitor yourself for the first sign of any symptoms. You should notify your employer of your situation and find out what they recommend.

 

How do I get tested?

Currently, testing is somewhat limited. The Indiana State Department of Health is testing symptomatic patients in the hospital, a nursing home, or residential institution, as well as symptomatic health care workers and first responders. ISDH will also test those with chronic medical conditions, compromised immune systems and the elderly. Any other patients with symptoms should contact their healthcare provider, who can order a COVID-19 test from a commercial lab. If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing stay home and isolate yourself until you are 72 hours fever free. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or feeling overly lethargic, or bluish lips, contact the emergency room and seek care immediately.

Testing for COVID-19 is only recommended for patients with symptoms.

 

I am the primary caregiver to someone with the coronavirus, what should I do?

The first priority should be to ensure that the infected individual has their healthcare needs met. Symptoms of COVID-19 seem to worsen in the second week of the illness, so monitoring for worsening symptoms should prompt a call to your healthcare provider and a possible evaluation. The next priority should be to limit their contact with other people until the symptoms are gone.

 

Updated 4/6/2020