The new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation in the Houston area. We want you to be prepared. Here are answers to questions you may have about COVID-19.
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The new coronavirus spreads primarily from person-to-person through:
Although the number of cases has increased around the world, it still pales in comparison to the number of flu cases.
COVID-19 is an upper respiratory illness that causes the following symptoms:
It can take as little as two days or as long as 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear.
Given that we're also currently experiencing flu season and high pollen counts, it's important to remember that there are other, more common causes for the upper respiratory symptoms mentioned above.
If you've possibly been exposed to the virus and are experiencing symptoms, we recommend that your first contact with a health care provider be through telemedicine. Be prepared to answer questions about your symptoms, recent travel history, and/or contact with potentially infected individuals.
If you're experiencing severe symptoms, we recommend going to your nearest emergency room. To the extent possible, please call ahead to inform the emergency room staff that you're concerned you may have COVID-19.
Serious symptoms of COVID-19 include:
For residents of the Greater Houston area, the risk of exposure to the virus is considered low at this time. However, your risk increases if you have:
*Current high-risk countries include China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea — but we recommend regularly checking the Centers for Disease Control's COVID-19 risk assessment by country.
There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from infection with the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn't recommend that healthy individuals wear a face mask as a means of protecting themselves from COVID-19. Your healthcare provider will let you know if and when you may need to wear a face mask.
Tamiflu is a drug to treat the flu, and it will not protect you from getting the new coronavirus. Researchers internationally have been working to develop antivirals, but at present, there is no specific treatment or vaccine.
It's not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This means that it's essential to clean and disinfect any surface you think may be infected, as well as commonly touched surfaces.
If you have upcoming travel plans, we suggest regularly checking the CDC's COVID-19 risk assessment by country and following their recommendations.
Yes, it's safe to receive packages from at-risk countries. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is extremely low. The risk of catching the virus from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also extremely low.
While the complete clinical picture of this virus is still unclear, symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe.
Similar to infection with other respiratory viruses, elderly individuals and individuals with existing medical conditions, including pulmonary disease, may be at higher risk of developing a more serious illness.
If you've possibly been exposed to the virus and are experiencing symptoms, your doctor will work with the city health department and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
To test for COVID-19, your doctor will likely collect a saliva sample, as well as nasal and throat swabs.
There is no specific antiviral medication for COVID-19, and antibiotics are never effective against viral infection. However, infected individuals can relieve symptoms, via
It's recommended that you stay isolated at home while sick and ask family members or friends to pick up any over-the-counter medications you may need.
More severe cases of COVID-19 may need to be treated in the hospital. If you're experiencing severe symptoms, we recommend going directly to an emergency room.