United States – How to keep yourself safe from the COVID-19 illness

Updated on March 23, 2020

 

What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is a new illness that causes lung infections. COVID-19 is part of a large family of viruses that include both the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)5.

The virus was first discovered in late 20195 and has since spread to countries all over the world. The World Health Organization calls the world-wide spread of an illness a “pandemic”. The world is now working together to stop the illness from spreading further.

 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

 The most common symptoms are5:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry cough

 Other symptoms include5:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache 
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing


Most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms. They can safely recover at home without any medical help. For every 6 people who catch COVID-19, 1 will have trouble breathing5.

People who have a higher chance of getting serious symptoms are5:

  • People who are over the age of 65
  • People who have weaker immune systems
  • People who have long-term health problems

Examples of long-term health problems are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

 

Call your surgery team and your family doctor if you have these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Dry cough
  • Trouble breathing

This could be a sign of COVID-19 or other serious health problem5. Your local healthcare teams can help you manage this. If your symptoms are getting worse and you do not think it is safe to wait, visit your local emergency room or call 911. If you call 911, tell them that you may have COVID-19.

 

How does someone catch COVID-19? 

The most common way to catch COVID-19 is from someone else who has it.

There are a few ways that this can happen5:

  • Breathing in when a sick person coughs or sneezes around you
  • Breathing in when a sick person exhales around you
  • Touching anything that has the virus on it, then touching your face
  • Touch a sick person, then touching your face 

  

How do I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

 There are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Wash your hands with soap throughout the day5. This will help kill any virus on your hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time. Remember to wash between your fingers, under your nails and around your wrists. Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. Choose one with at least 60% alcohol2. Click here to watch a video about handwashing. 
  • Do not touch your face with your hands5. The virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth. If you touch something with the virus, then touch your face, you may get sick.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are touched every day2. Some examples are toilets, doorknobs, desks, chair handles, light switches, counter tops, phones, faucets and sinks. Click here to see a list of approved products. Click here to learn how to make your own disinfectant.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze5. Use a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw out the used tissue into a closed garbage bin right away. Then, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from anyone who coughs or sneezes2. This helps prevent you from breathing in tiny drops of liquid from the sick person.
  • Practice social distancing6. Less person to person contact makes it harder for the virus to spread to another person. This means staying at home and away from areas with groups of people. Make work from home arrangements, if possible. Enjoy social activities such as worship and music events online, instead of in-person. Click here to learn more about social distancing. 

 

How can I prepare my family?

Make a household plan1. Make sure you have enough normal daily items for 2 weeks4. This includes medicines, food, drink and other household items. Know your local food delivery options.

Make plans for childcare, pet care, and working from home. This will help in case you start feeling sick. Call your older family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they have enough supplies.

Click here to learn more about household planning. 

 

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you have mild symptoms such as a runny nose, tiredness or sore throat, stay at home and practice self-isolation until you recover. Self-isolation means staying away from all people. This will help protect everyone around you.

To help protect other people you should:

  • Wear a face mask when you are around other people3
  • Stay in a separate room from other people at home3
  • Use a different bathroom at home if possible3
  • Put the toilet lid down before flushing4
  • Stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people3
  • Do not use public transportation, taxis or ride shares3
  • Do not share personal items like cups, plates, towels, or toothbrushes3

Most people can recover safely at home without any medical help. Staying at home will prevent your healthcare teams from getting overwhelmed. Help them make sure they have enough resources to care for the sickest people in your neighborhood.  

Click here to learn more about taking care of yourself and when to stop social isolation. 

 

Call your surgery team and your family doctor if you have these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Dry cough
  • Trouble breathing
This could be a sign of COVID-19 or other serious health problem5. Your local healthcare teams can help you manage this. If your symptoms are getting worse and you do not think it is safe to wait, visit your local emergency room or call 911. If you call 911, tell them that you may have COVID-19.

 

Will my surgery care plan change? 

Your surgery team cares deeply about your health. This includes making sure you are a safe distance away from people who may be sick with COVID-19 at the hospital. In the next few months, there will likely be changes to the dates and times of your surgery appointments. Instead of in-person visits, your healthcare team will try to meet you online using video meeting tools. Check your email and phone messages daily so you do not miss any hospital messages. Together, you will come up with a plan to keep you safe and healthy. 

 

Where can I learn more about COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
World Health Organization

  • Learn how the world is working together to control this illness
  • Learn how to protect yourself


Myth Busters
World Health Organization

  • Learn the truth about common COVID-19 myths


Government Response to Coronavirus, COVID-19
USA Government

  • Learn how the US is working to control this illness


Protect yourself financially from the impact of the coronavirus
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

  •  Learn about financial support for your family and business


Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Learn how to protect yourself
  • Learn what to do if you feel sick
  • Learn how to prepare your home
  • Learn how to manage anxiety and stress


Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2
United States Environmental Protection Agency

  • An up-to-date list of products that kill COVID-19


Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Products
American Chemistry Council

  • An easy-to-read list of products that kill COVID-19


Managing Stress and Anxiety
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Tips on how to manage stress for adults and children 
  • Tips on how to manage stress for first responders 
  • Tips on how to manage stress for people after quarantine 

 

Phones Numbers for State and Local Health Departments
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • A list of health department phone numbers 

 

Updates:

  • March 23, 2020. Added a new section summarizing expected work flow changes in-hospital. 
  • March 20, 2020. Added a list of health department phone numbers to resources list. Changed social distancing link to CDC page. Rephrased sentence in alert boxes from to “If your symptoms are getting worse and you do not think it is safe to wait, visit your local emergency room or call 911.” 

 

References: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Get Your Home Ready.”  Last modified March 18, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/get-your-household-ready-for-COVID-19.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself.”  Last modified March 18, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): What To Do if You Are Sick.”  Last modified March 18, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
  4. Government of Canada. “How to isolate at home if you have COVID-19” Last modified March 18, 2020. www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home.html
  5. World Health Organization. “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).“ Last modified March 9, 2020. www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses