Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

As communities continue to be impacted by COVID-19, we are a reliable source for people in search of answers. We are working closely with our infectious disease experts, other health care entities, and federal, state, and local agencies to ensure our information is accurate and up to date. We have taken measurable steps to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and will continue to be vigilant in safeguarding our patients, visitors, and staff. For questions related to your current personal health circumstances, please contact your health care provider.

COVID-19 is an illness that is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. There have been millions of cases throughout the world since then.

SARS-CoV-2 is not the same virus as MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV. However, it belongs to the same genus (betacoronavirus) and the symptoms are similar to those of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV are instances when animal coronaviruses evolved and infected people and then spread between people. SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans in China in 2002 and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have never infected humans. Bats are believed to be a common reservoir of coronaviruses.

SARS-CoV-2 is spread from an infected person to others. The ways that the virus spread include:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The typical signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell are also reported. COVID-19 affects different people in many different ways.

For the latest information on signs and symptoms, visit the CDCs webpage.

There are vaccines to help protect against COVID-19. For more information on vaccinations, visit our vaccine page here.

You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Here is an instructional video on how to wash your hands
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available. Here is an instructional video on using alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Wear a face mask in public settings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put a 6 feet distance between yourself and other people.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Yes, there are several vaccine options. For more information, visit our vaccine page.

There are no specific treatments. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.

Contact your primary care provider. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

Patients, visitors, and employees take part in a brief survey and temperature reading when arriving for appointments. Further, we strongly recommend everyone to wear a mask when entering a clinic.We encourage everyone to be vigilant and help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses by practicing good hygiene, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Here is an instructional video on how to wash your hands
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available. Here is an instructional video on using alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Wear a face mask in public settings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put a 6 feet distance between yourself and other people.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get vaccinated.

If you are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with the disease, you are asked to call your clinic prior to your appointment.

Updated information for Houston and Harris County can be found here.

Updated information for the United States can be found here.

CDC has activated their Emergency Operations Center to provide support for the COVID-19 response. CDC has released information on the virus, which can be found here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who have chronic conditions or are above the age of 70, are considered at the greatest risk for developing severe symptoms. 

More information can be found at the CDC website and the WHO website.

To find out how many people in Houston and Harris County have COVID-19, please visit their website.

To find out how many people in the United States have COVID-19, please visit this website.

Read updated travel notices from the CDC.

This is a very important question. Please contact your physician’s office as soon as possible so they can guide you on the next best steps.

Ordering take-out food or having food delivered is considered safer options to dining out. If you decide to dine out, outdoor seating can be a more cautious option. To learn more, visit the CDC page.

There are many scams taking place in regards to COVID-19. Please review information from the Federal Trade Commission.

Yes. Activity is good for your body, mind, and mood. Experts say you can walk or hike, or do other activities outside—as long as you can stay 6 feet away from other people. If visiting a park or a recreation area, learn what the CDC recommends.

Based on what is known at this time, pregnant and recently pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to nonpregnant women. The CDC is still collecting data to understand the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and infants. Read more.

The CDC offers guidance for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities prior to the pandemic. If you are not yet vaccinated, the CDC has tips to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19.

There’s no evidence that the virus can be spread through water or food. The virus is believed to be spread from person to person. This happens through close contact (being within 6 feet) and droplets when a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes. Experts also think it may be possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. City water treatment disinfects water. While food doesn’t spread the virus, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you prepare food. It’s also important to disinfect surfaces like kitchen counters, tables, and objects that you touch.

There have been a small number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in pets worldwide. The CDC has outlined rules to protect your pets during the pandemic.

The virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. How well it survives may depend on the surface it’s on. In the study, the virus lasted longest on plastic and stainless steel. It didn’t live as long on cardboard. Because the virus can live for hours to days, it’s especially important to keep items around you clean. Experts advise disinfecting surfaces and objects you touch a lot, such as tables, door handles, faucets, toilets, handrails, and remote controls. You can use household disinfectants, a bleach solution, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.

If your test is negative and your symptoms continue or get worse, you should call your doctor or other health care provider. They will tell you if you need another test. No medical test is perfect. If your test result is positive, you are believed to have COVID-19. You will be diagnosed with it. But if your test result is negative, you still could have COVID-19. There are several reasons why a test might be negative, even though you have been infected. For example, your virus levels might be too low for the test to detect. Or the virus may not have been in the area of your body where the test was done. Sometimes there are errors in how the sample was collected or how the test was run. This could cause a negative test, even when you have an infection.

A ventilator is a machine that breathes for a person when they can’t breathe well enough on their own. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. This means it can affect the breathing systems of the body, especially the lungs. Most people with COVID-19 don’t get seriously ill. But when someone is very ill, the infection affects the lungs so severely that breathing is hard or impossible. A ventilator has a tube that goes through the mouth into the lungs. The machine brings oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide. A ventilator is important because it does the work of the lungs and gives them time to heal. After they heal, the tube can be removed. One of the main concerns about this virus is whether there will be enough ventilators if many people get sick at the same time.

You can help health care workers during this pandemic by taking care of yourself. Practice social distancing when it’s necessary and proper hand hygiene. If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your doctor’s office or urgent care. Ultimately, be kind to health care workers. They have a lot of people to care for during a very stressful time.

Some people who have COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms. That’s called being asymptomatic. Studies have shown that people may spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms. People with COVID-19 seem to be most contagious when they have symptoms like a fever and a cough.

You can clean and disinfect your phone. But be careful not to spray liquid on it. Moisture could get in the phone and damage it. Unplug the phone from charging or any devices or cables. Spray a non-abrasive disinfectant or 70% isopropyl alcohol on a soft, lint-free cloth. (Don’t use paper towels or anything else that is abrasive.) Gently clean the phone (and phone case if you use one) with the cloth. Don’t use bleach to clean the phone. You can do a few other things to help keep your phone clean—and help keep you safe: Text or email photos to others instead of handing people your phone. Avoid putting your phone on surfaces that you haven’t disinfected. Use Bluetooth or a headset when possible. That way the phone isn’t touching your face.

An antibody test looks for antibodies in the blood. These are proteins that your immune system makes, usually after you’re exposed to germs like viruses or bacteria. Antibodies work to fight illness. An antibody test for COVID-19 could help you know if you‘ve already had the virus that causes this illness. (A different kind of test is used to tell if you are currently infected with COVID-19 and able to infect others.) Without antibody testing, many people who have been exposed to COVID-19 won’t even know it, because they never had symptoms or had only mild ones.

For more information on how to receive an antibody test and what your results may mean, visit the CDC’s page.

No. Antibiotics treat infections that are caused by bacteria. COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Viruses are different than bacteria. Antibiotics don’t help and can even cause other problems.

There are two different laboratory tests now available for SARS-CoV-2. One is a viral test that will tell you if you have a current infection. This test requires a swab to go into your nose. The other test is an antibody test. This blood test will tell you if you have had an infection.

The length of time someone is sick with COVID-19 varies. It depends on how sick a person is. When people are mildly ill, they usually get better in 1 or 2 weeks.People who are more severely ill have worse symptoms, like severe shortness of breath and pneumonia. They need care in a hospital. They usually get better in 3 to 6 weeks. Some people who get very sick may need even more time to recover.

Some people with COVID-19 have very mild or no symptoms. They may get over the infection without even knowing they had it.

So far, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by ticks or mosquitoes. COVID-19 is spread mainly person-to-person. It can be spread by close contact or by droplets when a person who is infected sneezes or coughs. Learn how COVID-19 is spread.

Cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare​.​ The CDC is still learning and conducting studies on this.

According to the CDC, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic. Learn more.