Understanding Coronavirus: Answers to Common Questions

CHA COVID-19 feat photo
CHA HPMC's Hand Hygiene Poster

CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center’s Hand Hygiene Poster


With increasing concerns regarding the spread of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) within our communities, it’s critical that Angelenos are armed with facts and helpful information to protect themselves and loved ones from exposure, and to dispel myths and misperceptions about the novel virus. While there is much that the healthcare community is still learning about COVID-19, we take meaningful steps to better understand how it spreads, misperceptions, symptoms and warning signs, as well as action steps that people can take if they suspect exposure.

The following are some commonly asked questions among our patients with responses to help inform and empower the Los Angeles community.

  1. Current statistics: Based on COVID-19 dashboard provided by Johns Hopkins CSSE, there are 153 confirmed cases in the US. Generally, most people who are infected with the virus feel mild symptoms indistinguishable from a common cold—such as cold, cough, body aches, congestion, and low grade fever.
  2. How does COVID-19 spread? The medical and scientific communities have identified several ways that COVID-19 can spread. In the past six weeks or so, it has been documented that the virus can be spread from person to person. The most common occurrences in known cases have been through respiratory secretions when a person comes into contact with them from an infected individual who sneezes or coughs, or direct contact through a shared surface or object. The virus can stay on inanimate objects for several hours after someone has sneezed or coughed on it. People who are infected but do not show symptoms can still aerosolize the organism, which is how the virus has spread to various parts of the world. Proper handwashing is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19 or other diseases. For information on proper handwashing technique, visit the website.
  3. What are the myths/misperceptions about COVID-19? It is a myth that healthy people wearing a regular mask are protected. In fact, people tend to touch their faces even more than usual to either adjust the mask to different area of the face, which can increase the risk of infection if their hands have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus or other diseases. While people should be mindful of COVID-19 exposure, flu prevention is just as, if not more, important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are more likely to contract influenza respiratory syncytial virus than COVID-19. There has been much attention given to “stocking-up” for a potential COVID-19 outbreak. However, people do not need to panic and should keep in mind that it’s always a great idea to stock up and prepare for any emergencies, especially as we live in California where we may have natural disasters such as earthquakes. For more information on how to prepare first aid kits and other supplies, please visit the website.

    Dr. Suman Radhakrishna and Dr. Thomas Horowitz

    Dr. Suman Radhakrishna and Dr. Thomas Horowitz

  4. What are symptoms or warning signs people should look for if they become ill? Most people infected with COVID-19 show only mild symptoms. They may have a fever, sore throat, nasal congestion, chest tightness and shortness of breath. However, for elderly or people with advanced chronic symptoms associated with diseases such as asthma and diabetes, or with other medical illnesses, COVID-19 can be life-threatening and even mild symptoms can become a major concern. Some people who are exposed to COVID-19 will show no symptoms and may not even know exposure has occurred.
  5. What should people do if they or a loved one suspect they have COVID-19? If symptoms are mild, it’s likely to be a common cold or flu. However, if you suspect your or your loved one has COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately to discuss your symptoms prior to a physical visitation. They will ask you questions based on CDC criteria/guidelines. Be sure to quarantine yourself until symptoms are resolved or your healthcare provider can assess whether you have the virus. During this time, you should remember to care for yourself by drinking enough fluids, having soup, or other comfort foods already in the house.
  6. When to stay home? When should we get tested? If you notice symptoms of cold, it’s advised to stay home until you feel better. Avoid crowded places to limit the spread of infections and reduce your chances of being infected. If you have any plans for travel, avoid COVID-19 endemic areas. When travelling, follow hand hygiene procedures and use hand sanitizers frequently. If you had recently visited one of the 5 COVD-19 infected countries*, place yourself in isolation (at home) for 2-3 weeks to avoid spread. If you believe you are at risk of infection, call the urgent care, emergency department, or your primary care provider. They will screen you to identify if you are at risk of COVID-19 or other common viruses and decide on further testing.
  7. What is the best preventive measure? As recommended by CDC, hand hygiene is the best preventive measure to curb the spread of germs that cause Coronavirus and other infectious diseases. By practicing frequent hand hygiene techniques like washing and sanitizing hands, you can remove germs and avoid getting sick. We frequently touch our face and mouth after touching other people or surfaces contaminated by bacteria and viruses. Person-to-person transmission of infection can be controlled with the use of alcohol hand sanitizer and intermittent hand washing, when hands are not visibly dirty. Cover your cough always to avoid the spread of germs to others. Flu season is still around, so it is beneficial to get the flu vaccine.
  8. Where can people get more information about COVID-19? The CDC is a reliable source of information about COVID-19. The CDC website has numerous resources, including the latest news about COVID-19 cases and traveler information, and you can sign up to receive weekly email updates. For more information, visit the website.

Dr. Suman Radhakrishna is an infectious diseases physician at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Dr. Thomas Horowitz, D.O., is a family medicine specialist at CHA HPMC.


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