COVID-19: your questions answered

Q: What is the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that spreads from person to person. This virus was discovered while an outbreak in Wuhan, China, was being investigated. The virus spread from infected animals to humans, which is unusual, thus making it a novel coronavirus. The infection continues to escalate and infect people globally. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been monitoring the virus since the beginning and will continue to provide updates to the public.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: The symptoms of COVID-19 are like those of a common cold or the flu. However, patients who have existing respiratory problems or weak immune systems could experience severe illness or even death. The symptoms of the virus appear anywhere from 2-14 days after the person has been exposed.

Symptoms include:

  • Cough and congestion
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience symptoms and have been exposed to someone that has COVID-19, or if you have recently visited an area that has an ongoing spread of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider immediately.

Q: Is COVID-19 contagious?

A: Yes, COVID-19 is very contagious. It is believed to be spread by person to person contact when people are in close contact with each other (6 feet or less) or through respiratory aspirations produced from the cough or sneezes of an infected person. The virus can also be spread by touching a contaminated object or surface, but at this time, it is not believed that this is the primary way that the virus spreads. The CDC is taking drastic measures to limit exposure and the spread of the disease.

Q: What is the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19?

A: The best way to prevent contracting COVID-19 is avoidance. Since you may not know if you are going to be around people who may be carrying or have been exposed to the virus, there are some precautions you can take. These include:

  • No close contact with sick people
  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nose if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently for 20 seconds or more, and use an alcohol-based sanitizer when you can’t use soap and water.

If you are sick, stay home. Cover your cough or sneeze using tissue and throw the tissue away as soon as you use it. Disinfect any objects and surfaces that you have frequently touched.

Q: How do I keep myself and my family safe from the coronavirus in Alabama?

Governor Kay Ivey declared Alabama in a state of emergency on Friday, March 13, 2020, after more than one case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the state. Residents of the state were advised to practice social distancing, and many closures began throughout the state to try and prevent the spread of the virus. However, as the virus continued to spread, new health orders were issued and applied to the entire state, not just affected and surrounding counties. As of Friday, March 20, 2020, the order issued by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is as follows:

  • All non-work gatherings of more than 25 people or in which people cannot maintain six feet between each other are not allowed.
  • All regular programs at senior citizen centers are to cease for the time being.
  • Daycares may remain open if no more than 12 children are in a room or enclosed area at the same time. Daycare centers are instructed to follow sanitation guidelines issued by the CDC and Alabama Department of Health (ADPH).
  • All instructional classes that meet in person at colleges and schools are prohibited.
  • On-site consumption of food or drink in bars, breweries, and restaurants is not allowed. Take-out and delivery are permitted as long as persons can follow the social distancing protocols.
  • All public and private beaches in the state are closed as of 5:00 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2020.
  • All hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities are not to allow visitors and non-essential health care employees, apart from maternity and end-of-life care.
  • All dental and medical procedures that are elective are to be delayed.

These guidelines are to be followed through April 5, 2020, and if the order needs to be extended, the order will be updated before April 6, 2020.

Q: How do you treat COVID-19?

A: Currently, there is no treatment for COVID-19. People who have tested positive, as well as those they live with, should quarantine themselves at home and not leave except to receive medical treatment. They should call first before going to the doctor. Infected persons should isolate themselves from other people and animals. They should continue to cover their cough, wash their hands frequently, and disinfect high surface areas often.

Q: Is there a test for COVID-19 in Alabama?

A: Yes. If you have symptoms of the virus or have been around someone who tested positive or has recently traveled to an exposed area, then you should get tested. You can call the Alabama COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 to find out where testing sites are and when they are open. You can also be checked through your doctor’s office, but call first. Testing can be done either through state or commercial labs. While you wait for your results, you should self-isolate at home.

Q: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

A: Not at this time.

Q: Should I wear a face mask?

A: Only people who have been diagnosed or show symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a mask to prevent spreading the virus to other people.

Q: Will COVID-19 reach Alabama?

A: The first case was diagnosed on March 13, 2020. As of March 20, 2020, there were 106 confirmed cases in the state.

For more information about testing, or if you think you might have COVID-19, call the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-264-2256.