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March 17, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Is it Possible to Spread the Virus Before Showing Symptoms?

Experts are still working to understand exactly how the novel coronavirus spreads, but Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, a division of the CDC, reports that while it is possible that someone can be asymptomatic and test positive for COVID-19, the data shows that it is people with active symptoms that are most capable of transmitting the virus.

What is the Incubation Period for Coronavirus?

New data suggests the median incubation period for the virus is 5 days with 97% of people developing symptoms within 11 days.  If you’ve been exposed to someone with coronavirus and have passed the 14-day mark without symptoms, you’re not going to get sick.

Can I Contract COVID-19 if I Enter a Room an Exposed Person Has Been In?

While it’s possible, Admiral Brett Grior, MD, Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes it’s an extremely low-risk situation. For reference, a high-risk exposure would be standing right next to a person who had a fever and was coughing.

Not all exposures are equal, says Grior. If you had a high-risk exposure, he says you should talk to your doctor.

Will Warmer Weather Stop the Spread of Coronavirus?

It’s unknown if weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. 

Can Coronavirus Be Spread through Food or Frozen Food?

Coronavirus is spread via the respiratory route (coughing, sneezing). There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is transmitted through food. Coronavirus does not survive well on surfaces so “there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures,” according to the CDC.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Coronavirus and Flu?

Respiratory viruses have many symptoms that often overlap. Because of this, Dr. Messonnier notes there is no way to distinguish early symptoms of COVID-19 from the flu. What can help you distinguish between the symptoms is if there is an outbreak of coronavirus in your community or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

If you have questions about any respiratory symptoms, call your doctor.

How is a Person Tested for COVID-19?

The current test for COVID-19 in the United States can’t be analyzed in your doctor’s office. If your doctor wants to test you, they have to request a test kit and the test has to be run in a public health or CDC lab. Testing is similar to that for flu — a swab of your nose or mouth. If someone is seriously ill, fluid samples can be taken from the lung.

Can I Still go to Public Gatherings (i.e Church, concerts)?

While the decision to attend public gatherings is personal, the CDC has noted that attending large gatherings when there is an outbreak is risky. The organization has advised groups not hold events in excess of 50 people for the next eight weeks. For church services the same advice applies even though they may be smaller gatherings. If you do attend church, Admiral Grior suggests avoiding hugging or shaking hands, avoiding participation in communion offerings and practicing social distancing. 

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