About COVID-19

About the novel coronavirus, COVID-19

Named after the crown-like projections on their surfaces, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common among different animal species such as bats, cattle, camels, and cats. While it’s rare that animal coronaviruses infect people and spread, the first human coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous, however, in recent years some types have become serious such as the SARS outbreak in 2003 and MERS outbreak in 2012.

In December 2019, officials from Wuhan, China first discovered the newest respiratory coronavirus, now called the “Coronavirus Disease 2019” or “COVID-19”.

How COVID-19 spreads

Human coronaviruses are thought to be transmitted mainly by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Person-to-person transmission is likeliest to occur among close contact (around 6 feet). This is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens such as the common cold or flu spread.

How to prevent potential spreading of the virus

The same precautions we take to prevent flu also work for COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze—then throw the tissue away.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What to do if you feel sick

If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your health care provider first before visiting so your provider can take precautions to protect others in the clinic. Follow your health care provider’s advice. Stay home from school and work until at least 24 hours of being fever free without the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you must go out, wear a mask and avoid close contact with others, especially around infants and children, those over 65 and those with a compromised immune system.

Wearing a mask is recommended if you are sick and need to leave your home for an essential errand. People who are not sick do not need to wear a mask. Masks are effective in helping prevent sick people from spreading viruses and germs through coughing and sneezing, but they are not effective in keeping well people from getting sick.

Resources and information

Resources for HSC employees and students

Some may feel anxious about COVID-19, and these HSC resources are available to provide counseling and other assistance:

This page was last modified on March 13, 2020