Think you may have the coronavirus? Here’s what to do

Posted at 11:12 AM, Mar 10, 2020

As the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, feeling under the weather suddenly comes with more concerning questions: Do I have COVID-19? Should I get tested for the virus? Should I be quarantined?

First, if you're feeling under the weather, you should take note of your symptoms. According to the CDC, the coronavirus comes with three specific symptoms: Fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you experience all of the symptoms — especially if you've been traveling to a known virus hot spot or know someone with the virus — you may be infected.

But even if your symptoms match, you shouldn't panic. There may be no cure for the coronavirus, but the vast majority of people without underlying health issues who contract the disease experience a full recovery. According to the CDC, most cases of COVID-19 will be mild. In fact, many people who contract the disease recover safely at home.

If you do think you may be infected, there are a few steps you should take:

Call your doctor or health care provider

Describing your symptoms over the phone to a doctor or health care professional can save some crucial steps and prevent you from infecting others. Doctors can help provide you with steps so you can treat yourself at home, and in more severe cases, give you specific direction in case you need to go to the hospital. Some hospitals might ask you to enter a particular entrance or have special requirements, so you don't infect others.

You should also ask your doctor to contact the local or state health department. Those departments can determine if you need to be tested for the virus and help track down others who may be infected.

Health departments are prioritizing coronavirus tests for people who have travel histories and in parts of the country where there is significant community spread. Even if you are never tested for the disease, stay in touch with your doctor, and continue to follow their guidance.

Stay at home

If you believe you've contracted COVID-19, the best thing you can do is stay at home and isolate yourself from others. If you're able to work at home, try to do so, and avoid taking public transportation.

If you do need to leave your home for any reason, wear a facemask when you're around others.

The CDC also says you should limit contact with family members and pets if you think you have the coronavirus. Stay in a different room, and if possible, use a separate bathroom.

Wash your hands and disinfect

Hand-washing is always important, but it could drastically prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of an outbreak. Everyone should also remember to cover mouths and noses when sneezing and dispose of all used tissues into trash cans immediately.

Also, be sure to avoid sharing personal household items, and be sure to disinfect high touch areas like tabletops, doorknobs, computers and phones daily.

Monitor your symptoms

Keep track of your temperature and breathing, and keep your healthcare provider apprised by phone. If your illness worsens, call your doctor and tell them you feel you need to go to the hospital.

Continue to self-isolate until you hear otherwise

Stay in contact with your doctor and continually update them with your progress. According to the CDC, isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis with doctors and local health agencies.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.