We understand that many of you have questions and concerns about the emergence of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We have provided a list of frequently asked questions to help you stay informed about this pandemic. If you have additional questions or concerns about COVID-19 , we encourage you to call the Kentucky Dept of Public Health at 1.800.722.5725 or visit kycovid19.ky.gov.
- What is the coronavirus?
It is a new type of infection discovered in December, 2019 so it is called a novel infection. It is a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan City, China. It is abbreviated at 2019-nCoV.
- What is the source of infection for the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections, including the common cold. Initially, many people who became ill in Wuhan, China had a link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting that the virus likely started with an animal source. Now we have also clearly seen human to human infection.
- What symptoms does this coronavirus cause?
Symptoms are difficult to differentiate from the flu and include mild to severe respiratory illness associated with fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
- How does the virus spread?
It is likely spreading by respiratory droplets produced with a cough or sneeze. How easy it is to catch this infection from another person has not yet been determined.
- Has anyone in the US gotten infected?
Yes, the infection is now considered a pandemic with worldwide involvement. The infection has been identified in more than 150,000 people in more than 100 countries. There are now more than 3,000 confirmed cases in the US and more than 20 in Kentucky. 39 deaths have been reported across the US as of mid-March, 2020. The numbers continue to increase daily.
- How can I protect myself?
Cover your coughing or sneezing with a tissue and wash your hands with soap and water. Stay away from others with respiratory symptoms such as cough, sneeze and fever. Get your flu shot. While the flu shot will not prevent coronavirus, it will help to protect you during the current flu season.
- Is it safe to travel to China?
The US State Department has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory to China recommending that Americans not travel to China at all. On January 31, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members under age 21 of US personnel in China. All US citizens have been recommended to leave China as soon as possible. If it is not possible to leave China, the State Department recommends that people stay in their homes as much as possible, limit contact with other people, and avoid contact with animals and stock up on food supplies.
- Is it safe to travel to other countries?
All non-essential travel abroad by plane or cruise ship should be avoided. Level 3 or high-risk travel is now identified in China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, all of Europe including the United Kingdom and England. Strictly enforced lockdowns have been established in several countries. Travel back to the US from these countries can be difficult and President Trump has required screening of travelers via one of 13 US airports and 14 days self-quarantines for even asymptomatic Americans returning from many countries.
- Is there a vaccine against 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
Not at this time. The flu vaccine does not protect against this coronavirus but remains a good idea to protect for seasonal influenza infection.
- What is the treatment for 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
There is no specific antiviral treatment for this infection. Supportive care, such as medicines to lower fever and reduce cough, should be given. For more severe infection, hospitalization may be necessary.
- How do you test a person for 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
At this time, diagnostic testing for this virus can only be performed through state Departments of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and most recently through LabCorp and Quest. Drive-thru testing is being set up now.
- Who should be tested for 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
A person who develops fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 14 days after personal travel to a high risk region or after close contact with someone who has just returned from a high risk region or who has been exposed to someone with known or suspected Coronavirus, should call their healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will decide whether or not to direct the individual to the local Emergency Department or Department of Health regarding care and assessment for testing.
- I feel fine. Should I just go about my business as usual?
No, we have now identified that people can be contagious with Coronavirus before they show symptoms. Careful hand washing before and after meals and before and after using the bathroom is very important. You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Social distancing is also important. Slow the spread of the infection by avoiding large groups such as sporting events, concerts and large public gatherings. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between people. Avoid close contact such as shaking hands, hugging and kissing.
- Can I go to work?
That requires an individual discussion with your employer, but you should inquire about the possibility of working from home if the tasks of your job would allow for work at home.
- Why are the schools closed? Can I take my children to play with groups of friends?
Kentucky’s school districts are closed to allow children to maintain a distance from one another and combat the spread of the infection. In general, you want to avoid social gatherings, including play dates, to slow the spread of the infection.
- What does “flatten the curve” mean?
The Coronavirus spreads rapidly if people interact under normal conditions. A certain percentage of people with the infection, particularly the elderly, may require hospitalization and even intensive care. Each country, including the US, has a limited number of hospitals, equipment and staff. We do not want everyone to get very sick at one time and overwhelm the capability of the hospitals to care for those who are sick. We want the pandemic to move more slowly so that not everyone gets sick all at once.