Coronavirus (COVID-19): Here’s what you should know from the experts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a public health warning regarding the novel virus, COVID-19. Memorial Hermann’s Chief Medical and Quality Officer, Dr. Angela Shippy, took the time to answer questions regarding the infectious disease COVID-19. Read below to learn more about the virus and what you can do to protect yourself. 

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)? COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. 

How does the virus spread? According to the CDC, the virus is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person. This means people who are in close proximity with an infected person and exposed to respiratory droplets produced when that person coughs or sneezes are at risk for contracting the virus, similar to how the common cold and flu are spread. 

What can I do to protect myself? The best defense against all respiratory diseases is practicing good hygiene and taking simple everyday preventive measures like:

  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throwing it in the trash after using.
  • Cleaning your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items if someone has symptoms.
  • Disinfecting and wiping down commonly touched surfaces such as tabletops, doorknobs and phones.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? Symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to flu-like symptoms and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

What if I have these symptoms? If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms and have recently traveled to an affected area (China, South Korea, Iran, Italy or Japan, according to the CDC), or if you’ve been in contact with anyone who has recently traveled to these countries and is having symptoms, then call your physician. If you do not have a physician, you can call the Memorial Hermann Nurse Health Line at 713-338-7979 or toll free at 855-577-7979. The CDC also recommends you restrict any activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. It’s also important to separate yourself from other people in your home and pets, to avoid spreading the virus. 

Should I seek medical treatment from my physician or at an emergency center? If you believe you have been exposed to the virus and need medical treatment, it is encouraged that you call your physician prior to arriving at the office so they can prepare for your visit and keep others from getting infected or exposed. They may also direct you to a higher level of care, if needed. 

What else should we know about the coronavirus? Although this particular virus is new, it is a member of the coronavirus family, of which clinicians and researchers have significant knowledge. This provides a foundation upon which to build as we learn about characteristics of the new virus. The CDC, World Health Organization and other authorities are closely monitoring the virus and providing daily updates on new developments. In addition, it is important to know that the vast majority of patients who have contracted COVID-19 have not required any prescription medications or hospitalization, and have been treated with supportive care and over-the-counter medications at home to relieve symptoms.  

For more information about the coronavirus and how Memorial Hermann is taking proactive steps to prepare for a potential U.S. impact, visit www.memorialhermann.org/coronavirus.

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Ali Vise