COVID-19 Health FAQs
As Louisiana’s flagship health university and health resource, LSU Health New Orleans has compiled the following information about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 from credible and authoritative sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and others.
COVID-19 (CO for corona; VI for virus; D for disease) is the disease caused by a virus now named SARS-CoV-2. It was first called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus when it originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. SARS-CoV-2 is a new, or novel virus, although it is related to the coronavirus that causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which caused an outbreak in 2003.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, either between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become availables.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
COVID-19 symptoms can include:
- Runny nose
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
Influenza (Flu) symptoms can include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
Allergies symptoms can include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- No fever
People who have allergies are usually familiar with their allergy symptoms, as they may be triggered by certain seasonal allergens.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have achCurrently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. A number of researchers are working to develop one, and the first clinical study of a potential vaccine is already underway. The estimates are that it will probably be at least a year before we have a vaccine.
People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location.
Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
Travelers returning from community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.
Risk of Severe Illness:
Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
- Older adults, with risk increasing by age.
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Only those who have the virus should wear a surgical mask. Masks may help contain infectious secretions when sick people cough and sneeze.
For those who are not sick, a mask may actually increase your chances of becoming infected. They are not form fitting, and adjusting straps or position on the face increases touching of your face, which could transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Disposable face masks can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill, then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely.
Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people (ideally 6 feet) if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces often. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Social distancing is putting distance between people. The current recommendation is about 6 feet (the distance that respiratory droplets may travel from an infected person.) Reducing the number of people who gather in any one place at any one time is social distancing.
A public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. It can include large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds.
It is a concept that is meant to slow the progression of a disease to allow the health care system and resources to keep up. Taking preventive measures like social distancing, staying home when you’re sick and even frequent handwashing can help avoid a spike in the number of people who are sick at the same time and overburdening available health care resources.
Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19. There are several ongoing clinical trials that may prove useful.
No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
Only those with symptoms are currently being tested. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. People at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild.
All tests must be ordered by a health care professional.
Testing is being done by the state lab at the Louisiana Department of Health, private laboratories, and at locations as part of a pilot program of the City of New Orleans and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
All tests must be ordered by a health care professional.
It is simply keeping yourself away from others.
If you are advised to self-isolate, stay home for 14 days from the time of your possible exposure.
Take your temperature and record it preferably 3, but at least 2 times a day – in the morning and evening.
Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:
- Seek medical care. Contact your primary health care provider. Call ahead before you go to a health care provider’s office or emergency room.
- Tell your health care provider about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
If you need to seek medical care for other reasons, such as dialysis, call ahead to your health care provider and tell them about your recent travel to an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.
If you are self-isolating because your illness is not severe enough for you to be hospitalized:
Stay home except to get medical care
People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
People: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
Animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.
Call ahead before visiting your doctor
If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean your hands often
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
Soap and water are the best option if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal household items
You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
Clean all “high-touch” surfaces frequently
High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
Monitor your symptoms
Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19.
Information for household members of a patient self-isolating at home is available here.
While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.
It is 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 (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:
- Wearing multiple masks
- Taking antibiotics (See question “Are there any medicines of therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?")
In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.