Frequently Asked Questions

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What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause diseases of varying severities, ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory diseases. This is a novel (new) coronavirus because it is a strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.  The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The new coronavirus seems to be spreading from person-to-person. Learn what is known about the spread of COVID-19.

The virus that causes COVID-19 may be passed from an infected person in the following ways, including:

  • Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or
  • eyes before washing your hands

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with Symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

At this time, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS coronaviruses.

Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart

Someone that has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

Quarantine means the separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to the virus. These are exactly the same precautions you would take to avoid coming down with a cold or the flu.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses:

  • Stay home when you feel sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after
  • going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or
  • sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with
  • at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Also visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn more about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

What should I do if I think I may be infected with COVID-19?

If you believe you may be at risk of infection with COVID-19 and you develop symptoms, call ahead to a healthcare provider for additional guidance. Be sure to tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact. Your healthcare professional may work with local health authorities to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

How can I be prepared?

Now is a good time to review your family’s preparedness. Discuss your family emergency plan.  For more information on family emergency planning and additional resources, go to:

Emergency Management/Get Prepared/Important Links page.

What if I’m considering traveling?

For individuals who are considering travel, they should consult the CDC webpage at: CDC Travel Guidelines

Who is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19?

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung diseases are at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill.  If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is critically important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of becoming infected with the virus. For more information or people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 visit: People at COVID-19 High Risk page

What should I do if I had close contact with someone has COVID-19?

There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.

 For more information, please see the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Source: Texas Department of State Health ServicesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention