Answers to some common questions about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19

James M. Frazier, M.D., vice president, medical affairs and quality, Norton Healthcare, answers some common questions about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

What is the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are not new. Like influenza, coronaviruses are a family of respiratory viruses with multiple strains. These strains have the ability to change over time, just like influenza. Coronaviruses are already common in the U.S. and have been for years.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus strain that currently is making so many news headlines. It emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?
Just like the flu and common cold, COVID-19 is spread person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

It may be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object where the virus is present and then touching their mouth or nose, and possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms and when should I seek medical advice?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Seek medical advice if you develop symptoms and you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or you have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office, immediate care center or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and symptoms.

Norton eCare provides access to a provider from your mobile phone or computer. You can meet virtually with a Norton eCare provider from anywhere, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two types of virtual visits are available through MyNortonChart — video visits and e-visits. Choose the option that fits your needs. Sign in with your MyNortonChart account to get started. If you don’t have an account, sign up at NortonHealthcare.com/MyNortonChart.

What can I do to avoid getting it?

The risk of getting COVID-19 in the U.S. currently is low.

The best way to avoid getting sick with any respiratory illness, including COVID-19, is by following these prevention methods:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Care is available from home through Norton eCare.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Follow the instructions on the cleaning product’s label.
  • 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 readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Should I wear a mask to avoid getting sick?

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Who should wear a mask?

People who show symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. People who are ill should wear a mask when around other people or going to see their health care provider.

The use of face masks also is crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility). The infected person also should wear a mask.

Is COVID-19 deadlier than the flu?

Currently, there is not enough known about COVID-19 to answer this question. People with chronic medical illnesses and/or older patients who get COVID-19 are at increased risk for complications, including death.

We do know that the number of people infected by influenza (flu) and related complications far exceeds the number of people with COVID-19.

Is there a vaccine?
There is not a vaccine specific to COVID-19 at this time. There also is no vaccine that is 100% effective for the flu, but the flu vaccine can protect you from the most common respiratory viruses. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, it’s not too late.

What happens if a patient with symptoms comes to a Norton Healthcare facility?

Under CDC guidelines, suspected COVID-19 patients are immediately masked and taken to a private room or an isolation room for further testing and diagnosis.

If it is determined that the patient meets the criteria to be screened for COVID-19, samples will be taken and sent to the CDC. While awaiting test results from the CDC, which takes 48 to 72 hours, the patient can be discharged to home isolation or remain in isolation at the hospital, depending on the severity of symptoms.

We are monitoring supplies and still have all the gloves, gowns, goggles/eye protection and respirator masks needed.

What should I do if I think I may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus?

If you think you were exposed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), contact your primary care provider to discuss your symptoms and travel history. Unless you have an emergency, call ahead before seeking care so that providers can take steps to give you the right treatment and protect others from exposure to the virus.

If it is after hours, leave a message with your provider’s answering service. If you need urgent care, call ahead to a Norton Immediate Care Center or Emergency Department and let them know of your symptoms and travel history.

Norton eCare provides access to a provider from your mobile phone or computer. You can meet virtually with a Norton eCare provider from anywhere, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two types of virtual visits are available through MyNortonChart — video visits and e-visits. Choose the option that fits your needs. Sign in with your MyNortonChart account to get started. If you don’t have an account, sign up at NortonHealthcare.com/MyNortonChart.

Want to know more? Learn from the experts:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-NCOV/index.html

World Health Organization: WHO.int/Health-Topics/Coronavirus


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