Know the symptoms
The new virus causes respiratory illness in humans, usually 2–14 days after exposure. Illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The virus is thought to spread mainly from close contact with an affected person. It spreads in the air, like flu, and through droplets from sneezes and coughs. The droplets can stay suspended in the air and can land on surfaces that are touched by others.
Understand your risk
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers COVID-19 to be a serious public health threat, but individual risk is dependent upon exposure. For the general American public–those who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time–the immediate health risk is low.
Keep an eye on coronavirus, but remember the flu
Symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath also happen to be symptoms of the common cold and flu. This year, at least 29 million flu cases have been reported with 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from flu. Flu activity most commonly peaks between December and February and can last until May.
What’s important to remember is that anyone can get the flu. But you are more likely to become infected if you:
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have frequent, close contact with young children
- Work in a health care setting where you may be exposed to flu germs
- Live or work with someone who has the flu
- Haven’t received an annual flu shot
Take precautions to guard against infection
- Get a flu shot
- Keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoid people who are sick
- Stay home and away from others when sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues or your arm/sleeve. Dispose of tissues in the trash.
- Keep surfaces clean using disinfecting wipes
- Check the CDC advisories prior to planning travel
Stay home and phone
If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call your local VA medical center and select the option to speak to a nurse before visiting the facility. Tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel.
In addition to calling first, consider using VA’s telehealth and virtual care options. VA’s telehealth providers can evaluate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis and comprehensive care, so you do not have to leave your home or office.
Get VA’s latest updates on the new coronavirus: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/index.asp