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Information about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Read the latest >

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Information About the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated March 21, 2020

Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We understand that news of the virus’s spread can be alarming, and we want to assure you that our top priority is the safety of our patients, our employees, and our community.

Stanford Medicine continues to follow all protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep our community safe and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. And we have access to the best available information to update our institutional guidelines and processes, as needed, to respond to this evolving situation.

Stanford Children’s Health welcomes generous donations of unused and unopened supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Our health care workers are on the front lines during the COVID-19 outbreak, and our number one priority is their safety and that of our patients.

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Below is an FAQ to help keep you informed about COVID-19, developments at Stanford Medicine, and steps that you can take to protect yourself.

About COVID-19

Q: What is a novel coronavirus?

A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

How it spreads

Global COVID-19 Prevention

Q: How does the virus spread?

A: This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. 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.

Q: Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Q: Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure.

For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

How to protect yourself

Q: Am I at risk for COVID-19 in the United States?

A: This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the issue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • 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.
    • See our hand washing guide (English)(Spanish).

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.

For information specific to health care, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Health Care Settings.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. 

Q: What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

A: There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.

Q: Does CDC recommend the use of facemask to prevent COVID-19?

A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a health care professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Symptoms and testing

Q: What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?

A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Q: Should I be tested for COVID-19?

A: If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider.

Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild.

If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.

Q: Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?

A: Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.

For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.

Expectant Mothers

Q: Are pregnant women more susceptible to infection, or at increased risk with COVID-19?

A: We do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

Q: How can pregnant women protect themselves from getting COVID-19?

A: Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection. You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these actions:

  • Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 disease at CDC’s (Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus).

Q: Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus or newborn?

A: We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Q: If a pregnant woman has COVID-19 during pregnancy, will it hurt the baby?

A: We do not know at this time what if any risk is posed to infants of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19. There have been a small number of reported problems with pregnancy or delivery (e.g. preterm birth) in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy. However, it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection.

Q: If a laboring mother has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, how can she prevent from passing it to her newborn baby?

A: To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the mother to the newborn, the CDC recommends temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI from her baby until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are discontinued, as described in the Interim Considerations for Disposition of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19.

Q:  What are some guidelines on breastfeeding for mothers with confirmed COVID-19 or under investigation for COVID-19?

A: Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. However, much is unknown about COVID-19. Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.  

A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic PUI should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast. 

If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

Q: Can the transmission of COVID-19 be spread through breast milk?

A: Much is unknown about how COVID-19 is spread. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza (flu) and other respiratory pathogens spread. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.

An interim guidance on breastfeeding for a mother confirmed or under investigation for COVID- can be found on the CDC website.

COVID-19 and children

Q: What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

A: Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on CDC’s current Risk Assessment page.

Q: What about children who have preexisting conditions and/or additional health risks?

A: At this time, in children, we are not yet sure if specific underlying medical conditions are associated with worsened disease. In older adults, certain preexisting health problems are associated with more severe cases of COVID-19.

At present, Stanford Children’s Health care teams are advising pediatric patients with existing medical conditions to follow the same guidelines that are in place for all children, including social distancing and thorough handwashing.

Parents should contact their pediatrician if their child shows signs of COVID-19, and follow their doctor’s directions on obtaining testing if appropriate. Parents of patients with subspecialty needs should call their subspecialty providers if their child is diagnosed with or being tested for COVID-19, so that their care team can advise them in real time.

Q: How can I protect my child from COVID-19 infection?

A: You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.

  • Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing)
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 at Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus and at Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities. Additional information on how COVID-19 is spread is available at How COVID-19 Spreads.

Q: Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than in adults?

A: No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special health care needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children.

Q: Should children wear masks?

A: No. If your child is healthy, there is no need for them to wear a facemask. Only people who have symptoms of illness or who are providing care to those who are ill should wear masks.

COVID-19 and Stanford

Q: What is Stanford Children's Health doing about COVID-19?

A: As soon as the CDC sent an alert about the outbreak, our Emerging Infectious Diseases subcommittee was activated. The subcommittee, along with the Infection Prevention & Control Department, relies on information from the CDC, World Health Organization, State and local County Public Health Departments to maintain the most current information and recommendations. They also provide guidelines for screening of patients and procedures for health care workers to follow should a patient require isolation, and to ensure patient and health care worker safety. 

With standard protocols in place at all times and working closely with our local and national government health agencies to update protocols as necessary, Stanford Children's Health is well-prepared to care for patients with symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Q: Is it safe to go to the hospital or doctor's office?

A: Stanford Children’s Health has well-established measures in place to prevent transmission of all communicable diseases, including flu and other respiratory illnesses. There are respiratory etiquette stations for persons visiting with cough, and hand sanitizer is available. Our staff is trained to screen patients for cough, fever, and recent travel when they arrive. 

If you are ill, please call ahead to your health care provider’s office prior to arriving.

Our hospitals and clinical locations have taken additional measures to ensure safety for all patients, visitors and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask your health care provider prior to your visit.

Q: What is telehealth virtual visits?

A: Telehealth virtual visits allow patients and/or their guardians to interact and consult with their health care provider, who can review the patient’s medical information for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment, go over test results, fulfill prescriptions, and provide patient education.

Virtual visits are being used both for virtual COVID-19 evaluations and to support non–COVID-19–related health care remotely to minimize patient and family exposure and support social distancing.

To get started with telehealth, talk with your provider’s office to see if you are a good candidate for virtual care.

To learn more about this service, read the latest story.

Q: Does Stanford Children’s Health offer novel coronavirus (COVID-19) drive-thru testing and who is eligible?

A: Drive-through novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing is available by appointment at Stanford Health Care. Drive-through appointments for Stanford Medicine’s COVID-19 test are available for patients who have been referred by their medical providers.

Drive-through COVID-19 testing service, offered from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 days a week, at Express Care’s Hoover Pavilion location in Palo Alto is by appointment only.

To learn more about this service, read the latest story.

The CDC website has additional FAQs on the topics of TravelPregnant Women and COVID-19, and COVID-19 and animals.

This page was adapted from CDC.gov, last accessed March 31, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about

Prevent the spread

Standford Medicine Global COVID-19 PreventionPlay

Watch this short animated video that illustrates how COVID-19 is transmitted among people, and help us do our part to prevent the spread.

Watch now >

Limiting Visitors to the Hospital

Making sure everyone is healthy is important for you and your child, and all of our patients. One way we are doing this is by limiting the number of people in the hospital. As a reminder, anyone with a cough, runny nose, fever, or sore throat should not come to the hospital.

Current visitor guidelines

  • A total of 1 person (caregivers) will be allowed to enter the hospital and be at the bedside.
  • One partner or birth support person will be allowed with each patient on the Labor and Delivery, Antepartum and Maternity Units. .
  • Any person visiting the hospital must be 18 years or older.
  • No entry allowed for common space use (cafeteria, gift shop, pass through to Stanford Hospital, etc.)

Ways for patients to stay in touch with friends and family:

  1. Make a phone call or video chat the child/family 
  2. Text, send an e-mail or greeting card.
  3. Send balloons (mylar type only) or other gifts by ordering from the gift shop (650) 497-8596 during shop hours
Visit our Gift Shop >
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