Frequently Asked Questions about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

To help keep our patient families and communities informed, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) medical experts gathered the following information to address frequently asked questions about the coronavirus.

Please note this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.

For the latest information, please refer to the CDC »

Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

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

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 mainland China (including Wuhan City, Hubei Province), 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. While there have been some reported cases in the U.S., the virus is not currently spreading across the country.

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 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

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, 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.

There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or is being evaluated for, COVID-19 infection available online.

Q: Does CHOP perform tests to detect COVID-19?

A: CHOP providers will work with local and state health departments and CDC to determine if testing is required based on your child’s symptoms and potential exposures. If a decision is made to test, we will collect specimens that will be shipped to the CDC for testing. At this time, diagnostic testing can be conducted only at CDC.

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.

Q: What if I or a family member recently traveled to China and got sick?

A: If you were in China and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after leaving, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. But before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • 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?

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

Q. Should I cancel any upcoming trips to China?

A: Yes; the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China at this time. For more 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.

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


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