Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a fairly new respiratory illness that was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. The unfamiliar nature of COVID-19 has lent itself to a variety of unknowns and with new information coming available on a daily basis, the situation is rapidly evolving. As the knowledge grows about the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided insight into what the situation is like in the United States and what the current risk is for citizens, as well as, how COVID-19 compares to the flu and what people can do to protect themselves.
Situation in the United States, Risk Assessment and What May Happen?
The CDC’s website details how outbreaks of novel virus infections are always a public health concern and the risk to the general public depends on the characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of the illness it causes and the medical or other resources available to control the virus and its impact. The current risk assessment for people in the United States, as reported by the CDC, includes:
- For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is still low, but as the outbreak expands, the risk will increase.
- People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk being dependent on the location.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected US and international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.
What may happen? (CDC Website):
The CDC reports that more cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the United States in the coming days. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. If widespread transmission of COVID-19 were to occur, it would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time and schools, childcare center and workplaces experiencing higher absenteeism.
Symptoms and Protecting Yourself
According to the CDC, cases of Coronavirus have ranged in severity from patients showing only mild symptoms to severe illness and even death. Symptoms may appear within 2-14 days after exposure with fever, cough and shortness of breath listed as the most common. Since there is currently no vaccine to help prevent COVID-19, the best way to prevent the illness is to take some recommended actions to help reduce exposure. The CDC’s official website recommends the following preventative actions:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or use a hand sanitizer
COVID-19 vs. Flu
With COVID-19 and the Flu producing similar symptoms, the two have been linked together from the beginning. Both COVID-19 and the Flu are infectious respiratory illnesses but they do have additional similarities along with some distinct differences. Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, M.D. listed the following similarities and differences on hopkinsmedicine.org:
- Both cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- Can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases
- Can result in pneumonia
- Both can be spread from person to person through the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking
- Neither virus is treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections
- Both may be prevented by thorough handwashing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected
- COVID-19 is caused by one virus, the novel 2019 Coronavirus, and the flu is caused by several different types and strains of influenza viruses
- There is no vaccine currently available for COVID-19, though it is in progress, but there is a vaccine available for the flu that is effective in preventing some of the most dangerous types and reducing its severity.
NextCare and its family of brands are dedicated to creating a safe and accessible healthcare environment for patients. To continue to serve our communities while we face COVID-19, we are excited to announce we are expanding our services to offer Telehealth. You can access a provider from the comfort of your home or office with your web browser via the HIPAA secure platform. We accept most major insurances, cash pay and medical discount program members.
At our clinics, patient safety is our number one priority. With this in mind, we are now offering our Curbside Care program, which allows you to drive up, stay in your vehicle and let us come to you. We especially encourage patients experiencing COVID-19 or viral symptoms to utilize this service. This will allow us to perform an evaluation and, should it be necessary, testing collections from the comfort and safety of your vehicle. Curbside Care allows our patients to practice social distancing and proper precautions while still being able to have their health needs evaluated. We recommend all patients book a time online at www.nextcare.com to help reduce your wait time at the clinic. To access curbside care please contact the clinic prior to visiting.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
What is the coronavirus or COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified and it is not the same coronavirus that we commonly see circulating and causing mild illness, such as the common cold. The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a fairly new respiratory illness that was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. The unfamiliar nature of COVID-19 has lent itself to a variety of unknowns and with new information coming available on a daily basis, the situation is rapidly evolving.
What is the source of the virus and how does it spread?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness in people but there are other coronaviruses that only infect animals. In rare circumstances, animal coronaviruses have emerged and began to infect people and this is what is suspected to have happened in the case of COVID-19. As a source of reference, both the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are examples of coronaviruses that have previously originated in animals and spread to people.
As far as how it spreads, the CDC reports it is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet). COVID-19 can also be spread through respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs or sneezes and these droplets can land in the noses, mouths or be inhaled into the lungs of those nearby.
Who is at risk?
The CDC reports the current risk for Americans of contracting the virus is still low but it is also expected that as the outbreak continues to expand, the risk for people will increase. It is also noted that people living in places where community spread is occurring are at a higher risk, along with, healthcare workers caring for sick patients, anybody who has been in close contact with someone infected and travelers who are returning from affected international locations.
Based on the evidence gathered in China, where COVID-19 was first seen in late December 2019, the CDC has listed certain age groups and people with specific underlying health conditions as being higher risk for developing a severe illness. The CDC includes older adults as being higher risk of getting very sick, along with, anyone who suffers from chronic medical issues like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease.
How to protect yourself
The Coronavirus has presented a unique set of challenges in the way it is spreading and how it has impacted many different parts of the world. Given what we know, there are some everyday precautions that can be taken to help you protect yourself and your family. The CDC lists the following ways to help protect yourself and others:
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid close contact
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Wear a facemask if you are sick
- Clean and disinfect
As mentioned under the “Who is at risk?” question, there are certain age groups and medical conditions that may make you higher risk for suffering from a severe illness and the CDC has recommended they take additional precautions. It is advised that you stock up on essential items, keep a little extra space between yourself and others while in public and avoid crowds as much as possible.
Should I wear a face mask or use hand sanitizer?
Since the announcement of COVID-19, there has been an increase in the number of citizens seeking face masks and wearing them in public and at home. However, it is not recommended by the CDC that people wear facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illness, even including COVID-19. A mask should be worn if it is on the recommendation of a healthcare professional or if you are experiencing any symptoms because this can help prevent the illness from being spread.
With hand sanitizer, it is an effective option to help kill germs and bacteria if it contains at least 60% alcohol. However, if soap and water are available, washing your hands is always the best option.
What are the symptoms related to COVID-19?
The Coronavirus is an infectious respiratory illness that has shown to provide different levels of severity and symptoms on a person to person basis. The symptoms associated with the virus are known to appear within 2-14 days after exposure and the symptoms have ranged from mild to severe illness and even death in some cases. The following symptoms have been commonly associated with COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC has also developed some emergency warning signs for COVID-19 and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breathe
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
COVID-19 and the Flu
With COVID-19 and the Flu having shown to produce similar symptoms, the two have been linked together from the beginning. Both COVID-19 and the Flu are infectious respiratory illnesses and share some of the same characteristics so it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Some of the similarities they share are in the symptoms, as they are both known to cause fever, cough, body aches and fatigue. Both illnesses can also result in pneumonia and are not able to be treated by antibiotics since they are viruses and antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. It is key to note as well, that COVID-19 is caused by one virus, the novel 2019 coronavirus, while the flu is caused by a variety of different types and strains of influenza.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
Please visit our nearest clinic (CLICK HERE FOR LOCATIONS) to be seen. We recommend you call in advance or notify staff immediately upon arrival of your symptoms and request a procedure mask. Once you’ve made contact with clinic staff they will provide you further instruction for care. At the provider’s discretion you may be screened for Influenza A, B, and Strep as a qualifying measure for a COVID-19 test collection. If it is determined necessary by a provider and we have test collection supplies in stock, a collection may be performed for a COVID-19 test. The collected test sample will then be sent out to a commercial lab for testing and analysis.
Can I be tested at any of NextCare or its family of brands clinics?
Our clinics are only collection sites for testing where we have resources available. This means if a patient meets the provider-determined criteria to order a test for COVID-19, a test collection may be conducted at our clinics. The collected sample will then be sent offsite for testing to be conducted at an official lab where the final results will be determined.
Do all of NextCare’s clinics offer collection services for COVID-19?
This is a dynamically developing situation and NextCare is working to secure the resources to be able to offer collection for testing at as many locations as possible. Currently this service is not available at all of our locations. Contacting a clinic, in advance will help determine if the clinic has the resources to offer the service at that time. CLICK HERE FOR CLINIC LOCATIONS
When does NextCare offer a collection service for COVID-19?
First and foremost during a clinic visit, one of NextCare’s providers must determine a patient exhibits the appropriate symptoms to administer a collection service. Secondly, the clinic must have the resources in place to perform the collection service.
What is my financial responsibility for a visit that may require a COVID-19 collection service?
You will be responsible for the cost of your medical visit with our provider for evaluation of your illness. This is unrelated to whether or not you have a COVID-19 specimen sent to a lab vendor for testing. In general, this cost may be shared with your health insurance carrier, be a part of medical discount programs (Advantage and Value Care) or would be through self-pay if you are not insured. In addition, you are ultimately responsible for the cost of the lab vendor to perform your COVID-19 test. This charge will be billed directly from the lab vendor to you and/or your insurer. Please see our Patient Financial Responsibility Form CLICK HERE to be completed at the time of visit.
COVID-19 and Animals
When it comes to our animals, they are considered important members of our families, so this is what we know so far. The CDC reports, that although COVID-19 is thought to have originated from an animal source, there is no evidence to suggest that animals or pets are a source of infection from the virus in the United States. As of now, there have been no reports of any animals or pets being infected by the Coronavirus or becoming sick, and there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus. We are still in the early stages and gathering new information, so it is recommended that you wash your hands after handling or being around your pets to minimize any risk.
If you do become sick from COVID-19, it is best to restrict contact with any of your pets for the duration of the illness, similar to how you would limit contact with people. Although we have no evidence at this time to suggest the virus is a threat to our animals, it is best to take extra precautions while new information is coming out and more studies are done.
If you are sick and must care for your animals, please wash your hands as often as possible, before and after your interactions and if you have access to a facemask, it is recommended that you wear it during the course of your interaction.
*Disclaimer – NextCare is working rapidly to secure resources to offer the COVID-19 collection service at as many locations as possible. NextCare cannot guarantee this service will be available at every location. NextCare will only administer this service when a provider determines it necessary and resources are available to conduct the collection service.