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Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know

covid_1.pngThis is a rapidly evolving situation. Last updated Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

The "2019 novel coronavirus" (COVID-19) is a new coronavirus and the responsible agent for an outbreak of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. COVID-19 was initially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019 with links to a large seafood and animal market; now person-to-person spread is being reported. The virus is transmitted via infectious secretions (respiratory droplets, sputum, serum, or blood) between individuals in close contact (within about 6 feet). It is possible that, in addition, the virus can be transmitted by saliva, urine, and stool.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The situation is rapidly evolving. There have been more than 1.4 million confirmed human infections worldwide and more than 83,000 deaths as of April 8, 2020. Cases have been confirmed in nearly every country. For an up-to-date heat map of global cases, click here. 

Per the CDC, health care providers should immediately notify their local or state health department in the event of the identification of a person under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19

What to look for:

The CDC criteria is as follows as of April 2, 2020.

PRIORITY 1 – Ensure optimal care options for all hospitalized patients, lessen the risk of nosocomial infections, and maintain the integrity of the health care system.

  • Hospitalized patients
  • Symptomatic health care workers

PRIORITY 2 – Ensure that those who are at highest risk of complication of infection are rapidly identified and appropriately triaged.

  • Patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms
  • Patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms
  • Patients with underlying conditions with symptoms
  • First responders with symptoms

PRIORITY 3 – As resources allow, test individuals in the surrounding community of rapidly increasing hospital cases to decrease community spread and ensure health of essential workers.

  • Critical infrastructure workers with symptoms
  • Individuals who do not meet any of the above categories with symptoms
  • Health care workers and first responders
  • Individuals with mild symptoms in communities experiencing high COVID-19 hospitalizations

NON-PRIORITY – Individuals without symptoms.

Note: Fever may not be present in some patients, such as those who are very young, elderly, immunosuppressed, or taking certain fever-lowering medications. Clinical judgment should be used.


What else could it be:

The differential diagnosis of COVID-19 includes other etiologies of lower respiratory tract infection.

Viral infection:

Bacterial pneumonia, eg:

Atypical bacterial pneumonia, eg:


If you suspect COVID-19:

See WHO for specific guidance for suspected COVID-19 infection. Refer to the US CDC for additional guidance.

Immediately notify infection control at your institution and the local or state health department in the event of a PUI for COVID-19.

No vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19 is available; care is supportive. 

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