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14 Feb 2020

Novel Coronavirus and Philadelphia: Everything you need to know

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February 14, 2020 Category: Local Posted by:

By Hans Kellner 

City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health 

What is 2019 novel coronavirus?

Novel coronavirus is a virus that the world first discovered in December 2019. The first cases were found in China. Because it’s so new, we are still learning as much as we can about this new virus. So far, we know that the 2019 novel coronavirus looks a lot like other respiratory viruses, like colds, the flu, or RSV.  Health departments around the world are concerned that it can make some people very sick or cause some people to die.

What are the symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus?

People who have 2019 novel coronavirus sometimes get fevers, a cough, or have trouble breathing. Most people who get the 2019 novel coronavirus don’t get really sick, but some people do and might have to go to the hospital.  A small number of people with the virus have died.  Most people who get sick from 2019 novel coronavirus start to feel these symptoms between two and 14 days after they catch it.

How does 2019 novel coronavirus spread from person to person?

This virus now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. At this time, it is unclear how easily the virus spreads from one person to another. Other coronaviruses spread through the air when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes or through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands. It also could spread when a person touches an object that has the coronavirus on it then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

Who is at risk of getting 2019 novel coronavirus?

Right now, the risk of catching 2019 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia is very low.  Almost all of the people who have been sick with 2019 novel coronavirus got it while they were in China. People who were in China in the last fourteen days and were around people who were sick with 2019 novel coronavirus are at the greatest risk.

How can I prevent getting 2019 novel coronavirus?

There is no vaccine to keep you from catching 2019 novel coronavirus. The best way to keep from catching 2019 novel coronavirus is to do all of the things you normally do during cold and flu season to keep from getting sick or getting other people sick:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer;

• Try to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if you haven’t washed your hands;

• Try to stay away from people who are sick;

• If you are sick, stay home and try to stay away from other people;

• Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.

• Using a mask is only recommended for someone who could have or is confirmed to have 2019 novel coronavirus and their caretakers. Using a mask is not recommended for people who do not have the virus.

How do you treat 2019 novel coronavirus?

Most people who have had 2019 novel coronavirus get better just by resting, drinking fluids and taking fever medicine like Tylenol or ibuprofen. For people who get sicker, they may need to go to the hospital. There is no medicine or cure that works specifically on 2019 novel coronavirus.

What should you do if you are around someone who has 2019 novel coronavirus?

If you have been to China recently, or if you have been around someone who might have 2019 novel coronavirus, check yourself for symptoms for fourteen days. The symptoms you should look for are:

• Fever

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, vomiting, diarrhea or runny nose

If  you get any of these symptoms within fourteen days of being in China or being around someone with 2019 novel coronavirus, call your health care provider right away. Tell your provider that you might have had contact with someone with 2019 novel coronavirus and tell them your symptoms.

If you do not have any of these symptoms, you probably don’t have 2019 novel coronavirus and are free to go to school or work normally.

If someone has a fever or a cough, does that mean they have 2019 novel coronavirus?

Winter in Philadelphia is a time when lots of respiratory viruses are making people sick. The common cold, the flu, and RSV are some of the things that can also cause people to cough or have a fever. If someone in Philadelphia is coughing or feeling sick, they probably have one of these other diseases. They probably don’t have 2019 novel coronavirus. Remember to take steps to keep yourself from getting sick like washing your hands.  This will help protect you from many of the respiratory viruses that are around during this time of year.

If someone is Chinese or of Asian descent, does that mean they have 2019 novel coronavirus?

2019 novel coronavirus is a virus that does not care about where a person was born, who their parents are, or what color their skin is. A person from China who is exposed to 2019 novel coronavirus is as likely to catch and spread it as a person from Philadelphia who is exposed to the virus. The outbreak happened to start in a city in China, but it can spread anywhere.  Only people who have recently travelled to China or who have been around someone known to have 2019 novel coronavirus are at risk of being infected.  There have been no cases in Philadelphia.

Remember, at this time, the risk of 2019 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia is low.  The health department is working with healthcare providers and community partners to keep our communities safe and healthy.

 For updated information about the 2019 novel coronavirus, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at

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