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Frequently Asked Questions

about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Last Updated: March 15, 2020

Courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia | Adapted by Healthy Steps Pediatrics

The CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available.

The well-being of our patients, families and staff is our utmost priority, and we will continue to communicate updates as they are available. We are taking all precautionary measures to identify and contain any possible exposures, and we are in constant communication with state and local health agencies to ensure timely and coordinated response efforts.

Please note this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. We are regularly updating this page with key information as we receive it, but we encourage you to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a reliable source for the most updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.

For the latest information, please refer to the CDC.


Q: What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

A: Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Learn about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (CDC)

Q. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. What does that mean for me?

A: An epidemic refers to an uptick in the spread of a disease within a specific community. By contrast, the WHO defines a pandemic as global spread of a new disease. Quoting the head of the WHO: “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

It is important to remember this is an evolving situation, and guidance will change. Symptoms of COVID-19 are mild to moderate for 80% of people infected. Avoiding social situations that may expose you, staying home when sick, and handwashing remain the best defense.

Q: Is my child at risk?

A: For the general U.S. public, the immediate risk from COVID-19 is considered low. Unless your family or child has recently traveled to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran, or you have been exposed to someone currently being evaluated/treated for COVID-19, your risk is very low. At this time, seasonal influenza remains a far greater risk to children than COVID-19.

Q: Could that change?

A: Yes. Right now, risk in the U.S. is low. According to the CDC, this is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment changes daily. For the latest updates, see Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Q: How is COVID-19 spread?

A: There is much more to learn about how COVID-19 is spread and investigations are ongoing. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that mainly spread though respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory viruses spread.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 are very similar to influenza and have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Read more about COVID-19 symptoms here.

Q: What should I do if I think someone in my family has been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or another location with widespread community cases of COVID-19, you should contact your medical provider immediately. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. Your healthcare provider will coordinate safe treatment and testing based on recommendations from your state’s public health department and CDC.

People who have been exposed to a positive case are being asked to self-isolate in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This does not mean that these individuals have symptoms or can spread the disease themselves. People are asked to self-isolate in order to watch for the development of symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they will be tested, and others who have had close contact with them will be assessed for potential exposures.

Individuals who live in the same household of someone who is being asked to self-isolate are not considered exposed unless they had the same exposure (e.g. travel or contact with a known case) and they do not need to self-isolate.

If the person asked to self-isolate becomes symptomatic, then the household contacts will also be placed under quarantine to monitor for symptoms. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days because this is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.

The CDC has more information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or is being evaluated for, COVID-19 infection.

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: Practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including frequent hand washing and covering coughs, and frequently clean surfaces such as doorknobs and phones. Visit the CDC’s treatment and prevention page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Q: What if I or a family member recently traveled to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran, and got sick?

A: If you were in China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or another location with widespread community cases of COVID-19, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after leaving, you should:

  • Call your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. But before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

  • Stay home except to get medical care: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.

  • Avoid public areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.

  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

  • Avoid contact with others: Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. The CDC provides more guidance on this topic.

  • Not travel while sick.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

A: Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19, although a global effort to find an effective vaccine is currently underway.

Q: What are the treatments?

A: There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection; however, people infected with the virus should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.

Q: Am I at risk of contracting COVID-19 from a package or animal products imported from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran?

A: Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animal products imported from these countries pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.

Q. Should I cancel any upcoming trips to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran?

A: Yes; the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran at this time. This information may change. For the most current traveler information, visit the CDC’s Travelers' Health page.

Q. Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating COVID-19?

A: No; antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. COVID-19 is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalized for COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Q. I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Is it safe for me to go?

A: It is important to stay on track with treatments prescribed by your child’s doctor, and to keep any regularly scheduled visits, examinations, vaccinations and other healthcare activities. If you have specific concerns about your child’s health, contact our office directly.

Q. Should high-risk patients (e.g. those with underlying health conditions or immunosuppressed) take any special precautions?

A: We do not have specific information on whether COVID-19 infection will be more severe in immunocompromised patients compared to healthy people; however, other viruses often cause more severe disease in immunocompromised people.

There is no indication that immunocompromised patients are at higher risk of catching coronavirus than other people.

Everyday practices such as hand hygiene, covering your cough and staying away from sick people remain critical to your child’s health and well-being.

However, we recommend that parents closely monitor updates in their community as the situation around COVID-19 is constantly changing in each locality. They should follow the advice of public health officials around social distancing, avoiding crowds, and school attendance.

Sources: CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and Pennsylvania Department of Health

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