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COVID-19: An update on the novel coronavirus disease

Written By: Simone Sonnier, UT Physicians | Updated: February 27, 2020

While this is still a developing situation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their information and precautions concerning the coronavirus disease, named COVID- 19. Similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), reported symptoms can include fever, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

In the U.S., the initial outbreak of the virus was limited to those who’ve traveled to affected regions. In January, the first person-to-person spread of the coronavirus was confirmed. This week, a confirmed case was reported to the CDC that may be the first sign of community-spread of the virus. The CDC is currently investigating the case. The patient had no known contact with another infected person or relevant travel history.

“We can expect isolated community transmission of the virus. However, what we need to do now is not panic; we need to prepare,” said Luis Ostrosky, MD, infectious disease expert at UT Physicians.

COVID-19 can be spread from person-to-person contact or by touching infected surfaces or objects. While it may take an infected individual as little as two days after exposure to show signs of the illness, it can be as long as 14 days before symptoms arise.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus. The CDC explains that avoiding the virus is the best way to prevent it spreading.

“Wash your hands. Hand hygiene is the most important and effective way to protect yourself,” said Ostrosky, professor of medicine and vice chair for Healthcare Quality at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

There are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in Houston, however the community should be prepared should that change.

“Schools and businesses should make a plan for potential future disruptions in everyday life. If the situation in Houston changes, we need to be prepared,” said Ostrosky.

If you are experiencing a fever, shortness of breath, coughing or congestion call UT Physicians at 713-486-8876 or the Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-888-963-7111.

Ostrosky, and fellow infectious disease experts at UT Physicians, have created a list of frequently asked questions about the virus. Read the FAQ.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.