Understanding the Coronavirus and Testing for COVID-19
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Patients with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Are there different strains of coronavirus?
Yes, there are seven different coronaviruses known to infect humans.
Four of the seven coronaviruses are very common, more mild (similar to the common cold), and most people will be infected with at least one of them in their lifetime. Healthcare providers test for these common coronaviruses routinely, and no public health measures are needed to address these common coronaviruses. People infected with the common coronaviruses can avoid passing them to others by covering their coughs and sneezes, cleaning their hands frequently and containing germs by staying home when ill.
Three of the seven coronaviruses are rare and can cause more severe illness; this includes COVID-19. Testing for this virus can only be done at CDC; healthcare providers are not able to test for this virus independent of the public health department.
- What should I do if I have traveled to an area with the infection and feel sick?
If you have developed a fever or respiratory symptoms and believe you have had exposure to a known case or traveled to an area with community spread, isolate yourself from others in your home right away and contact your healthcare provider BY PHONE to describe your symptoms and any recent travels BEFORE going to a local healthcare facility.
- Will I be tested for COVID-19? How do I get tested for COVID-19?
Pre-operative and pre-procedure COVID-19 testing will be at the discretion of the ordering physician or surgeon. If you are undergoing an outpatient procedure, your provider may place the order for the test, and if so, the hospital will reach out with instructions for scheduling.
At this time, tests for COVID-19 require a provider order. Visiting a provider does not necessarily mean you need testing or that you will receive testing. Your provider will follow all appropriate guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kentucky Department of Health to determine if testing is recommended based on your symptoms and recent travel history.
- What are the qualifications for being tested for COVID-19?
Someone may be a candidate for testing if he or she has:
A fever and cough or shortness of breath AND has been in close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case; or
A fever and cough or shortness of breath and a history of travel from affected geographic areas; or
A fever and cough or shortness of breath requiring hospitalization with no other source of infection.
- Can I pick up or buy a test kit for COVID-19?
No. At this time, tests for COVID-19 require a provider order and are not commercially available to the public.
- What do I do if I’ve been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
If you have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should self-monitor for fever or symptoms of respiratory illness for 14 days. If you begin to experience fever or symptoms of respiratory illness, and they are mild enough that you can manage them at home, you should remain at home in isolation. For details about how to correctly perform home isolation, tips for managing your illness at home with family members, and guidance on when you can discontinue home isolation, please visit the CDC’s website.
If you are not experiencing symptoms, or you are experiencing mild symptoms you can manage at home in isolation, you do not need to seek medical care or testing.
- I believe I have symptoms of COVID-19. What do I do next?
I’m experiencing mild symptoms right now, but I’m worried.
If you are experiencing fever and/or mild symptoms of respiratory illness, you can and should isolate at home during illness. For details about how to correctly perform home isolation, tips for managing your illness at home with family members, and guidance on when you can discontinue home isolation, please visit the CDC’s website.
Worsening symptoms – I need to see my provider.
Be alert to any changing symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if your symptoms are getting worse. If you feel you need to visit your healthcare provider, call ahead before you arrive to tell them you’re experiencing symptoms that may be related to COVID-19. This will allow your provider’s office staff to properly prepare for your visit and take the necessary precautions to keep others from being infected or exposed.
Emergent symptoms – I am having difficulty breathing.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1 and notify the dispatch agent that your emergency is related to possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Will I be tested?
Your emergency medicine provider or primary physician will make this determination based on your symptoms and recent travel history. You may or may not be tested, but your provider will follow all appropriate CDC and Kentucky Department of Health guidelines.
- How can I protect myself?
While there is currently no vaccine and no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus and those with the virus can seek medical care to relieve symptoms. There are simple, everyday actions you can take to help prevent spreading germs that cause respiratory viruses. These include:
- Practice social distancing. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet, or within the room or care area, of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). Close contact can also include caring for, living with, visiting or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case. Having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (such as being coughed on) while not wearing recommended PPE.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- 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.
If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should:
- Stay home.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.