The global spread of this new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is affecting every one of us. Navigating the tremendous amount of information out there can be stressful and overwhelming. We are continually updating this section with resources on what you can do to stay healthy, and what to do if you feel ill.
Can I socialize with my neighbors and friends if we’re all healthy?
We’re told to avoid “close contact” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What is close contact?
I’m pregnant and concerned about COVID-19. How can it affect my baby or me?
Because COVID-19 is new, experts don’t have enough information to say if and how the virus will affect a pregnancy. They also don’t know whether the virus can be passed to the baby (fetus).
The immune system can change during pregnancy. Experience with similar viruses has shown that there might be a higher risk for serious illness during pregnancy.
It’s important to do what you can to be as healthy as possible. This includes taking steps to prevent infection, such as washing your hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from people. Keep having regular prenatal visits. Stay in touch with your health care team.
Since most people get over COVID-19, why is everyone so worried?
There are two main reasons for concern. The first is that some people ARE at high risk of serious illness and death. The second is that if a lot of people get sick at the same time, health care providers may not be able to take care of everyone.
It’s true that many people with infections won’t get too sick. Most people get over the illness without problems. But some people—especially those who are older or have other health problems—can get very ill and will need intensive care in a hospital. If we can prevent the spread of infection, we can reduce the number of serious infections and help protect those who are at highest risk.
If COVID-19 spreads very quickly and widely, many people may be sick at one time. If this happens, the medical community may not have the resources to care for people in the way they need. Taking action to prevent the spread of the virus can help make sure this doesn’t happen.
How long does the virus that causes COVID-19 live?
A new study shows that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive in an aerosol form for at least 3 hours. An aerosol is something under pressure that can be released as a spray, like a sneeze or a cough.
The virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
How well it survives may depend on the surface it’s on. In the study, the virus lasted longest on plastic and stainless steel. It didn’t live as long on cardboard.
Because the virus can live for hours to days, it’s especially important to keep items around you clean. Experts advise disinfecting surfaces and objects you touch a lot, such as tables, door handles, faucets, toilets, handrails, and remote controls. You can use household disinfectants, a bleach solution, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
Will COVID-19 go away when the weather gets warmer?
The virus is new, so it’s not known how warmer weather will affect it. Some illnesses (like the flu and colds) are more common in colder weather than warmer weather. But it’s not known if that will be true of this virus.
Why is the virus making some young and healthy people very sick?
Experts don’t know why some people, even those who are healthy, get very sick. Overall, COVID-19 seems to cause fewer problems in people who are young and healthy. Those who are older or have other health problems, like diabetes or heart disease, have a higher risk of getting very sick. But the virus can affect anyone, even those who are young and healthy. And it can cause serious problems (even death) at any age. Data from the CDC has shown that 38% of people who have needed care in a hospital for COVID-19 have been between ages 20 and 54.
What should I do if I come in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
How do I protect myself when I’m out?
It’s best to only go out if you have to. For example, you might need to go to a supermarket or to work. Ask yourself if the trip out is necessary. Do you have to go out to eat, or can you choose take-out or even better, cook at home?
If you do go out, try to avoid groups of people. Practice social distancing. This means if you have to be around someone, don’t get too close. It’s safest to stay at least 6 feet away from others, but if you can’t be 6 feet apart, stay as far apart as possible.
Avoid people who may be ill. Try to avoid touching things that a lot of other people have touched (like door handles and elevator buttons). Wash your hands often with soap and water. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you can’t wash, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
I don’t have COVID-19. What can I do right now to stop the spread of the virus?
Everyone can help protect themselves and their community. The U.S. government has issued guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus:
- Work from home, if possible, and keep kids home from school.
- Avoid any events with more than 10 people.
- Don’t go out to restaurants, bars, or food courts. Instead, if you want food from a restaurant, seek out places that offer drive-thru, pick up, or delivery.
- Don’t go out to friends’ or family members’ houses or invite them to yours.
- Don’t visit older people in retirement communities or nursing homes.
- Don’t travel unless you have to.
- Keep your hands and your home clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Disinfect items in your home that you touch a lot.
What should I do if I return home from an area with an outbreak?
According to the CDC, people coming back into the United States from an area with a widespread outbreak are being asked to stay at home for 14 days. That means you shouldn’t go to work or school outside the home.
You’ll also be asked to take your temperature twice a day (to look for fever) and watch for other symptoms. Call your doctor if you have a fever, a cough, or trouble breathing.
Although the CDC doesn’t usually give guidance about travel in the U.S., it does suggest that you think about how widespread the virus is in the area that you are traveling to. Will you be in close contact with other people? Are you at high risk for the disease (people who older or already have a health problem)? Are you prepared to spend 14 days at home in self-isolation if, during your trip, you come in close contact with someone who has the virus?
Can I go for a walk outside and be safe from the virus?
Yes. Activity is good for your body, mind, and mood. Experts say you can walk or hike, or do other activity outside—as long as you can stay 6 feet away from other people. You can wave at neighbors or shout a hello. You can stop for a quick chat, if you are 6 feet or more away from them.
Can I travel during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America recommend against any non-essential travel because of the risk of people getting or spreading the virus. The hope is that by staying away from crowded airports, hotels, and restaurants, all of us can slow the spread of the virus.
The U.S. State Department recommends against any international travel at this time. The State Department and the CDC also advise against travel by cruise ship.
Can you get COVID-19 from water or food?
There’s no evidence that the virus can be spread through water or food. The virus is believed to be spread from person to person. This happens through close contact (being within 6 feet) and droplets when a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes. Experts also think it may be possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
City water treatment disinfects water. While food doesn’t spread the virus, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you prepare food. It’s also important to disinfect surfaces like kitchen counters, tables, and objects that you touch.
Can my pets get COVID-19?
There haven’t been any reports so far of household pets getting the virus. But if you have COVID-19, experts recommend that you stay away from your pets—just like you would stay away from people when you’re sick. If you have to care for your pets yourself, wash your hands before and after.
How do you disinfect your phone?
You can clean and disinfect your phone. But be careful not to spray liquid on it. Moisture could get in the phone and damage it.
- Unplug the phone from charging or any devices or cables.
- Spray a non-abrasive disinfectant or 70% isopropyl alcohol on a soft, lint-free cloth. (Don’t use paper towels or anything else that is abrasive.)
- Gently clean the phone (and phone case if you use one) with the cloth.
- Don’t use bleach to clean the phone.
You can do a few other things to help keep your phone clean—and help keep you safe:
- Text or email photos to others instead of handing people your phone.
- Avoid putting your phone on surfaces that you haven’t disinfected.
- Use Bluetooth or a headset when possible. That way the phone isn’t touching your face.
How is COVID-19 treated?
There is no medicine right now to fight the virus. Antibiotics don’t work against a virus. If you have mild symptoms, you can care for yourself at home while you are in isolation. Your doctor may have you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever. Treatment in the hospital for more serious cases includes support, such as a ventilator (to help with breathing) and medicines.
Will antibiotics help prevent or treat COVID-19?
No. Antibiotics treat infections that are caused by bacteria. COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Viruses are different than bacteria. Antibiotics don’t help and can even cause other problems.
If I test negative for COVID-19 but continue to have symptoms, should I get tested again?
If your test is negative and your symptoms continue or get worse, you should call your doctor or other health care provider. They will tell you if you need another test.
No medical test is perfect. If your test result is positive, you are believed to have COVID-19. You will be diagnosed with it. But if your test result is negative, you still could have COVID-19. There are several reasons why a test might be negative, even though you have been infected. For example, your virus levels might be too low for the test to detect. Or the virus may not have been in your nose, throat, or lung fluid when the test was done, even though it was in your body.
Sometimes there are errors in how the sample was collected or how the test was run. This could cause a negative test, even when you have an infection.
What is a ventilator? Why is it so important in this outbreak?
A ventilator is a machine that breathes for a person when they can’t breathe well enough on their own. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. This means it can affect the breathing systems of the body, especially the lungs. Most people with COVID-19 don’t get seriously ill. But when someone is very ill, the infection affects the lungs so severely that breathing is hard or impossible.
A ventilator has a tube that goes through the mouth into the lungs. The machine brings oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide. A ventilator is important because it does the work of the lungs and gives them time to heal. After they heal, the tube can be removed.
One of the main concerns about this virus is whether there will be enough ventilators if many people get sick at the same time.
How should I clean surfaces if I or a family member has COVID-19?
Experts say it may be possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it. This includes surfaces like tables and countertops and objects such as doorknobs, faucets, toilets, remote controls, and handles on the fridge and microwave.
To clean and disinfect surfaces and objects:
- Wear disposable gloves. Throw them away after you clean and disinfect. Wash your hands after you take off the gloves.
- Use a detergent or soap and water to clean any dirt from surfaces and objects.
- To kill the virus, use a household disinfectant cleaner, a household bleach solution, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Make sure the product is right for the type of surface you are cleaning. Follow the directions on the product. You can make your own bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach with a gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach with a quart of water.
How should I wash towels, linens, and other laundry of a person who has COVID-19?
You can wash an ill person’s items along with other people’s clothing. Just take care when handling the person’s dirty laundry.
- Wear disposable gloves. If you don’t have disposable gloves, wash your hands after handling the laundry of a person infected with the virus.
- Don’t shake out the laundry before you wash it. This can prevent releasing the virus into the air.
- Wash the clothes in the warmest temperature that is allowed for the type of fabric.
- Make sure the clothes are completely dry.
- Use a separate basket to hold the person’s dirty laundry. Line it with a disposable or washable liner to keep the basket clean.