Doctors answer your coronavirus questions, concerns

Medical Director of Advent Health Centra Care answers COVID-19 questions

In this Sunday, March 1, 2020 medics wearing protective gear work in a quarantined ward for coronavirus infected patients, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. A member of a council that advises Iran's supreme leader died Monday after falling sick from the new coronavirus, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness striking both citizens and leaders of the Islamic Republic. (Koosha Mahshid Falahi/Mizan News Agency via AP) (Koosha Mahshid Falahi)

Amid coronavirus concerns, News 6 is collecting your questions and getting answers from medical doctors and professionals.

Dr. Timothy Hendrix, medical director at Advent Health Centra Care, answered several questions about the respiratory illness that News 6 and received from its readers and viewers.

Read his responses below:

Question: Will flu shot and pneumonia shots that I’ve gotten protect me from developing a serious COVID-19 illness and/or pneumonia?

Dr. Hendrix: Although neither vaccine will prevent infection with COVID-19, both of these vaccines are strongly recommended to keep you healthy and prevent secondary infections like bacterial pneumonia that can occur when you are sick with other viruses like COVID-19.

Question: What preventive measures are medical offices taking to prevent contagion while patients are in the doctor’s office?

Dr. Hendrix: Physician offices and Centra Care are following (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to protect our patients by screening all patients at the front desk for risk of COVID-19, having patients wear a mask if they have a cough, and disinfecting rooms and surfaces after each patient visit. All staff will follow CDC standards for hand-washing, staying home from work is sick, and other aspects of infection prevention when caring for patients.

Question: Can food be infected that consumers buy at grocery stores from the coronavirus? I have heard it can last up to 3 days on surfaces. What about food?

Dr. Hendrix: At this time, there is no evidence that the coronavirus can be spread by food, but it’s always a good practice to wash fruits and vegetables and wash your hands before and after visiting the grocery store and prior to eating.

Question: Is the coronavirus really worse than the flu?

Dr. Hendrix: The majority of people infected with COVID-19 will have flu-like symptoms, like a fever or cough, and can recover at home without needing to see a doctor. And just like the flu, some patients are at risk of hospitalization from complications, like pneumonia, but more so with COVID-19 infections.

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Question: Can you get tested for coronavirus at the doctor’s office?

Dr. Hendrix: We’re getting word and we’re waiting on more testing, more widespread testing to become available because then we can at doctors’ offices, like CentraCare, then run those tests, but right now we’re still waiting, so we’re kind of in that transition period of trying to get more information from the government and from our, you know, the companies that are making the tests, when these things will become available.

Question: Should people be self-isolating?

Dr. Hendrix: So the basics of staying home if you have an infection, if you have a fever or a cough, you should be at home, whether it’s the flu, an upper respiratory infection, or potentially coronavirus in the future, you need to stay home, so that’s the idea of self-isolation. Staying home to try and keep getting from infected at this point ... we’re not recommending that because it’s not out in the community.

[MORE: How to get your coronavirus questions answered]

Answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19:

What is the coronavirus or COVID-19? Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, according to the World Health Organization. COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus.

How long does COVID-19 survive on surfaces? COVID-19 poses a low risk of spread from one person to another through contact of a shared surface, according to the CDC. A recent study found that other strains of coronavirus have the potential to remain on surfaces for two hours to nine days.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms of the virus include fever and signs or symptoms of lower respiratory illness --including cough or shortness of breath. Signs may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC. Click here for treatment information.

How to prevent spreading, contracting coronavirus COVID-19? The virus can spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or exhales, according to the WHO.

Who is most at risk for contracting COVID-19? A WHO report indicates that death rates from the virus for people age 80 or older could be 10 times higher than the overall population. Persons with pre-existing medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, appear to develop serious illness more often than others, according to WHO.

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