Information about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated February 20, 2020

Stanford Children’s Health is providing the following information in conjunction with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help keep our patients and families informed about the 2019 novel coronavirus. On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

About COVID-19

Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

A: The 2019 novel coronavirus, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hebei Province, China in December 2019. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Q: What is the source of the virus?

A: Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of the COVID-19. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Analysis of the genetic tree of this virus indicates it originated in bats, but whether the virus jumped directly from bats or whether there was an intermediary animal host is not, yet, known.

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 a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, and have recently traveled in China, you should call ahead to a health care provider and mention your recent travel. If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area, you should call ahead to a health care provider and mention your close contact. Your health care provider will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Q: How does the virus spread?

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.

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

A: Quarantine means the 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.

Q: Is the virus spreading in the United States?

A: This is a rapidly evolving situation and the infection risk changes daily. The CDC regularly updates the case count on their website.

Q: What is being done about 2019-nCoV?

A: This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and CDC will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available. CDC works 24/7 to protect people’s health. It is CDC’s job to be concerned and move quickly whenever there is a potential public health problem.

Prevention

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: Visit the CDC to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub can help prevent spread of many respiratory viruses.

Q: Does CDC recommend the use of face mask in the community to prevent COVID-19?

A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a health care professional recommends it. A face mask 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 face masks 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).

Travel

Q: Is it safe to travel to China or other countries where 2019-nCoV 2019 cases have occurred?

A: CDC has issued at a Level 3 Travel Health Notice and recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the People’s Republic of China (this does not include the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, or the island of Taiwan).

Q: What if I recently traveled to China and got sick?

A: If you were recently in China and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

CDC has additional specific guidance for travelers available online.

Treatment and Testing

Q: Is there a vaccine?

A: Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.

Q: What are the treatments?

A: There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection. People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

Learn about COVID treatment >

Q: How do you test a person for COVID-19?

A: At this time, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 can be conducted only at CDC.

Animals

Q: Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?

A: While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person. There is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.

Adapted from CDC.gov, last accessed February 20, 2020.