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Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Many of them infect animals, but some coronaviruses from animals can evolve (change) into a new human coronavirus that can spread from person-to-person. This is what happened with the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. Diseases from coronaviruses in people typically cause mild to moderate illness, like the common cold. Some, like the SARS or MERS viruses cause serious infections like pneumonia.

2. How are coronaviruses spread?

Like other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, human coronaviruses most commonly spread to others from an infected person who has symptoms through:

  • Droplets produced through coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as caring for an infected person
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

We are learning more each day about how easily the new coronavirus spreads and how long it takes for people to become sick. As information becomes available, we will keep you informed. Do not assume that someone of a race or nationality is likely to have COVID-19; this new virus has infected people of many different races and nationalities across the entire world.

3. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Reported illnesses have ranged from people with mild symptoms to people becoming severely ill, requiring admission to the hospital, and dying. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe illness

4. What should I do if I have these symptoms and recently traveled to an affected country?

Evidence from other countries suggest that like the flu, most people will have mild symptoms and should stay home until 24 hours after fever. Certain people should call their doctor early, including the elderly, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical problems. If you are having difficulty breathing or keeping fluids down, go to an emergency room or call 911, otherwise it is better to call your doctor before going in to seek care. You should also call a doctor if you have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for an up to date list of countries most affected by COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

5. Can I get tested for the coronavirus?

Testing is not helpful if you do not have symptoms. However, most people will get better with rest so there is no need to see a doctor if you have mild symptoms. If you develop difficulty breathing or cannot keep fluids down, see a doctor or call 911. Certain patients such as the elderly, those that are immune compromised or have underlying medical conditions should call their doctor earlier. If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to go to a medical facility to see a doctor. If you have questions, please call the clinic or your doctor before going in.

6. How is novel coronavirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for illness caused by the novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. Treatment is based on the patient’s condition. There is currently no vaccine to prevent novel coronavirus. Be aware of scam products for sale that make false claims to prevent or treat this new infection.

7. Is the Coronavirus spreading in the United States?

There have been several cases identified in the United States that have not had travel to affected country. This does suggest there is community spread in the United States and that spread may continue.

8. How can I protect myself when I travel?

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people avoid all nonessential travel to countries that are most affected by COVID-19. Check the CDC COVID-19 Information for Travel webpage  for up-to-date recommendations. Taking steps to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, like the flu, will also help to prevent coronaviruses. Talk with your doctor before travel to make sure you have received the recommended vaccines and medications specific to your destination to protect your health.

For more information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/