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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

UT Physicians is a reliable source for people in search of answers.
Credit: UT Physicians

The following content is sponsored by UT Physicians.

As communities continue to be impacted by COVID-19, UT Physicians is a reliable source for people in search of answers. We are working closely with our infectious disease experts, other health care entities, and federal, state, and local agencies to ensure our information is accurate and up to date. We have taken measurable steps to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and will continue to be vigilant in safeguarding our patients, visitors, and staff. For questions related to your current personal health circumstances, please contact your health care provider.

1. How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

2. Who should I call if I think I have COVID-19, or been exposed to a person with COVID-19?

Contact your primary care provider. 

3. What is the CDC's response to COVID-19?

CDC has activated their Emergency Operations Center to provide support for the COVID-19 response. CDC has released information on the virus, which can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

4. Who is at a higher risk for COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who have chronic conditions or are above the age of 70, are considered at the greatest risk for developing severe symptoms. More information can be found here.

You can also review the latest from the CDC on high risk information.

5. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may not appear up until 14 days after exposure.                 

6. How are doctor’s offices and hospitals keeping people safe?

Most health care entities across Greater Houston are moving to some type of modified access to their facilities. This is all being done to protect patients, visitors and employees. Most of the modified access plans involve some type of screening and even temperature readings. Contact your health care provider for specifics.

7. How many people have been infected with COVID-19 in the United States?

Updated information can be found at: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases

8. What is a coronavirus?

Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. They commonly cause mild to moderate illness.

9. Where did the current coronavirus originate?

A new coronavirus was identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. This new coronavirus is called the “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease COVID-19. Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in thousands of cases throughout the world. The exact source of the virus has not yet been confirmed; however, it has been linked to large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting zoonotic origin.

10. Is SARS-CoV-2 the sames as MERS or SARS virus?

SARS-CoV-2 is not the same virus as MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV. However, it belongs to the same genus (betacoronavirus) and the symptoms are similar to those of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV are instances when animal coronaviruses evolved and infected people and then spread between people. SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans in China in 2002 and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have never infected humans. Bats are believed to be a common reservoir of coronaviruses.

11. How are most coronaviruses spread?

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

12. Why is there so much attention to SARS-CoV-2?

A large segment of the population does not have immunity to this new virus, SARS-CoV-2. Currently, we do not know if the virus will cause a severe illness requiring hospitalization or if it will just cause a mild illness.

13. Is there a vaccine?

There currently are no vaccines to protect against the human coronavirus, including SARS-CoV-2.

14. What are the treatments?

There are no specific treatments. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.

15. Where can I get more information?

More information can be found at the CDC website: (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) and the WHO website (https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/novel-coronavirus) To find out the number of patients with confirmed COVID-19, please visit this website: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases

16. Are there travel restrictions? 

Read updated travel notices from the CDC: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

17. I am a senior and I have an elective procedure scheduled. Should I proceed?

This is a very important question. Please contact your physician’s office as soon as possible so they can guide you on the next best steps.

18. When dining out, should I be concerned that an individual somehow contaminate my food by sneezing or touching it?

We know that this virus is transmitted through contact droplet. Eating out is not recommended at this time because of the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted from high touch surfaces (door, table, chair, etc.). Ordering take-out food or having food delivered are both safer options.

19. How do I recognize when an email on COVID-19 might be a scam?

There are many scams taking place in regards to COVID-19. Please review information from the Federal Trade Commission.