Open Accessibility Menu
Hide

The Coronavirus FAQs

Source: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Recommendations for COVID-19 may change as officials learn more, so monitor the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control for updates.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for an up to date list of countries most affected by COVID-19.

What should I do if I have symptoms and think I may have been exposed to novel coronavirus?

Most people with respiratory infections like colds, the flu, and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will have mild illness and can get better with appropriate home care and without the need to see a provider. People who are elderly, pregnant, or have a weak immune system, or other medical problems, are at higher risk of more serious illness or complications. It is recommended that you monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical care early if your symptoms get worse. 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.

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.

Can I get tested for the coronavirus?

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.

Is the Coronavirus spreading in the United States?

There have been 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.

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.

What can I do to protect myself and others from respiratory infections like 2019-nCoV?

As with other respiratory illnesses, there are steps that everyone can take daily to reduce the risk of getting sick or infecting others with circulating viruses.

You should:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

What should I do if I have no symptoms and think I may have been exposed to novel coronavirus?

If you are not sick, there is no need to do anything other than practice every day daily prevention and monitor yourself for symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever and cough. Should you become ill, follow the guidance in the question above.

Should I wear a facemask?

It is not recommended that people who are well wear a mask to protect themselves from COVID-19 unless a healthcare professional advises it. A facemask should be used by people with COVID-19 who have symptoms to protect others from getting infected. Health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in a close setting should wear a mask.

What can I do if I get stressed about COVID-19?

When you hear, read, or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, it is normal to feel anxious and show signs of stress—even when the outbreak affects people far from where you live and you are at low risk of getting sick. It is important to care for your own physical and mental health. For tips on what you can do to help cope, read "Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks" on the Public Health website. For help, call the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Access Center 24/7 Helpline at (800) 854-7771 or call 2-1-1.

What else can I do?