Testing and the Virus
A novel coronavirus is a type of coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The novel coronavirus that caused the 2019 outbreak is different than the coronavirus that is commonly circulated among humans that cause mild illness, such as the common cold. A diagnosis with coronavirus NL63, OC43, 229E, or HKU1 is not the same as the COVID-19.
Two other coronaviruses have previously emerged that cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS-CoV than MERS-Co, but both are betacoronaviruses with their origins in bats.
COVID-19 is a new disease, or novel coronavirus, that has not previously been seen in humans.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, the disease.
The name of the new disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.
Symptoms typically appear within 2 to 14 days after infection, and include:
- Muscle pain
- New loss of taste or smell
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
According to the CDC, if you develop any of the following symptoms – trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face – seek medical attention immediately.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others only infect animals. On occasion, coronaviruses found in animal hosts can spread to other animals or humans. Subsequently, there can be human-to-human transmission. This is likely the mechanism of the virus responsible for COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and spread to humans.
The first infections were linked to a live animal market in China, but the virus is now spreading from human-to-human by respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. The CDC recommends that these patients be isolated in either a hospital or home environment (depending on illness severity) until they are better and are no longer at risk of infecting others.
The virus can be found on surfaces contaminated with respiratory droplets. This can cause the disease in humans if someone touches a contaminated surface and then proceeds to touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Animation: How Social Distancing Reduces the Spread
Both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Both viruses can cause a range of diseases from mild to severe, and at times fatal, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions. Seasonal influenza can be treated with antivirals, such as Tamiflu, in conjunction with additional supportive care. There is currently no treatment for COVID-19 but there are clinical trials underway.
There are several differences between seasonal influenza and COVID-19. Seasonal influenza is categorized as either influenza A or influenza B, both of which encompass several strains of virus that can cause illness. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There is an influenza vaccination available and effective to prevent some of the most dangerous strains or to reduce the severity of influenza. There is currently no vaccination for COVID-19.
Older adults and people with obesity, diabetes, and other preexisting conditions are most at risk for severe illness.
Wear a face mask. A mask helps limit the spread of COVID-19 and protects those around you. According to a review of 172 studies worldwide recently published in The Lancet, wearing masks can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to about 3%. Even a simple cloth mask can be effective at keeping your germs away from others.
Physical distance. Stay at least 6 feet away from others in public settings and avoid large gatherings.
Wash your hands. It’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community – from your home and workplace to child care facilities and hospitals. Follow these five steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Other precautions include:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Stay at home when you are sick
Everyone 2 years of age and older should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Before entering our University Hospital or clinics, all visitors ages 2 and older are asked to wear a clean mask or a cloth covering that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:
- Fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Is secured with ties or ear loops
- Includes multiple layers of fabric
- Allows for breathing without restriction
- Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
- Patients and visitors are asked to put on their masks before entering buildings to help protect themselves and others.
If you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, please call your doctor or local health department.
People can get tested for COVID‑19 at public testing sites and drive‑thru locations throughout Texas. View the map of all sites to find the closest one to you. Check your location’s hours and referral requirements before your visit.
If you have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested. If you develop symptoms, you should call a health care professional, who will guide the next steps for evaluation and possible testing for COVID-19.
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19
- People who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone with confirmed COVID-19
- People who have been asked or referred to get testing by their healthcare provider, local or state health department
There is an antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. For severe cases that affect the lungs, referred to as COVID-19 pneumonia, treatment includes IV or oral steroids and care to support vital organ functions.
More than 190 investigational studies, clinical trials, and biomedical research projects are under way in our laboratories, as scientists and clinicians work tirelessly to zero in on potential breakthroughs that could provide some lasting defense against COVID-19.
The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Patients with COVID-19 infection are unlikely to be re-infected after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19