Everything You Need To Know About The Coronavirus

What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. Some coronaviruses commonly circulate in the United States and usually cause upper respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose, although some can cause more serious illness. The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus causes the illness coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This information can be found on the NCDHHS website.

Cases in the United States:

How does COVID-19 spread?

Coronaviruses like COVID-19 are most often spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact (including touching and shaking hands) or through touching your nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands. Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect yourself and your community from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses.

How likely am I to catch COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk depends on where you are and more specifically, whether there is a COVID-19 outbreak unfolding there.

WHO says for most people in most locations the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low.

However, there are now places around the world (cities or areas) where the disease is spreading. For people living in, or visiting, these areas the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher. Governments and health authorities are taking vigorous action every time a new case of COVID-19 is identified. Be sure to comply with any local restrictions on travel, movement or large gatherings. Cooperating with disease control efforts will reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

COVID-19 outbreaks can be contained and transmission stopped, as has been shown in China and some other countries. Unfortunately, new outbreaks can emerge rapidly. It’s important to be aware of the situation where you are or intend to go. WHO publishes daily updates on the COVID-19 situation worldwide.


Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Emergency symptoms of COVID-19:

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

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Who is at higher risk?

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    1. Heart disease
    2. Diabetes
    3. Lung disease

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections, according to WHO. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?

Not yet, according to WHO. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms.

People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.

How is North Carolina preparing and responding to COVID-19?

Since late January, NCDHHS and NC Emergency Management have been operating a team to coordinate efforts around the state’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. In early February, Governor Roy Cooper formalized this effort with the creation of the COVID-19 Task Force to further prepare for COVID-19 infections in North Carolina.

DHHS is working with federal and local health officials, health care providers and emergency management officials to protect the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians. Activities include the following:

  • Recommending mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • The governor declared a state of emergency to deal with COVID-19, this declaration allows for funding to be made available for the response
  • The governor also issued Executive Order 117, which prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people
  • Executive Order 117 also directs the closure of all North Carolina public schools effective Monday, March 16, 2020 until March 30, 2020, unless extended beyond that date
  • Establishing a Governor’s Task Force to support and provide additional resources for the public health response.
  • Maintaining a reliable up-to-date website with information about COVID-19 disease, risk and guidance.
  • Staffing the COVID-19 phone line to answer urgent questions from the public.
  • Collaborating with federal, state, and local partners to share information and respond rapidly.
  • Providing resources to providers and healthcare facilities to streamline and standardize response activities.

Follow the guidance of public health and emergency management officials as the situation continues to evolve.

How is South Carolina preparing and responding to COVID-19?

DHEC continues to work with federal, state and local partners to respond to the emerging outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). DHEC is investigating multiple cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina. DHEC’s top priority remains protecting public health.

On March 13, 2020, the President issued a Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, and Governor McMaster declared a state of emergency in South Carolina.

What you should do if you have symptoms of COVID-19:

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, you should take steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

There are coronavirus hotlines set up in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

  • North Carolina – 866-462-3821
  • South Carolina – 855-472-3432
  • Mecklenburg County – 980-314-9400
  • Gaston County – 704-862-5303

What you should do if you are sick:

Stay home except to get medical care:

  • Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
  • Avoid public areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home

  • Stay away from others: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Limit contact with pets & animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor

  • Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Wear a facemask if you are sick

  • If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
  • If you are caring for others: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with the person who is sick should not stay in the same room with them, or they should wear a facemask if they enter a room with the person who is sick.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

  • Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
  • Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean your hands often

  • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Soap and water: Soap and water are the best option if hands are visibly dirty.
    Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid sharing personal household items

  • Do not share: You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.
  • Wash thoroughly after use: After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday

  • Clean and disinfect: Practice routine cleaning of high touch surfaces.
    High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
  • Disinfect areas with bodily fluids: Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
  • Household cleaners: Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.

Monitor your symptoms

  • Seek medical attention: Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing).
  • Call your doctor: Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19.
  • Wear a facemask when sick: Put on a facemask before you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.
  • Alert health department: Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.

Can my pet contract COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there have not been any reports of pets or livestock getting sick or spreading the coronavirus in the United States.  The World Health Organization (WHO) also stated that there has been no evidence that dogs or cats are getting sick from this particular virus.

Here are some useful tips to follow around your pets as a precaution (this information is from the ASPCA):

  • Wash your hands – Although there is no evidence suggesting that the coronavirus can be given to your pets, it’s still a good idea to follow basic hygiene practices around your pets.  Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly through out the day and before and after you have direct contact with your pets, their food or any of their supplies.
  • Stock up on pet supplies – Make sure you have a 30-day supply of food and pet medications
  • Designate an emergency caregiver – It’s a good idea to go ahead and find someone who could help take care of your pets in case you or a family member contracts the coronavirus.
  • Create a pet dossier – Make it easy for others to care for your pets.  Write down your pets’ information and be sure to include things like their habits, food preferences, medical conditions, medications taken, veterinarian contact information, and any behavioral tendencies.

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

Yes, according to WHO. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses, according to WHO. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Should I worry about COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to WHO. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care.

It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.

We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.

First and foremost among these actions is regular and thorough hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.

Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement and gatherings.