Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is COVID-19?

A: COVID-19 is a respiratory disease first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. It comes from the 2019 novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.  

Q: What is a novel coronavirus? 
A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. Many people are familiar with herd immunity. This concept applies to most respiratory tract infections, not just the ones we vaccinate against. Because this virus is new, there is no herd immunity which means virtually everyone in the world is susceptible to this infection.

A diagnosis with any other coronavirus is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with a common coronavirus diagnosis.

Q: What is the difference between coronavirus and other viral fevers? 
A: Viral fever is a generic term meaning a fever that is caused by a viral infection. Most viruses that infect humans can cause a person to have a fever and symptoms such as fatigue that are often referred to as “flu-like symptoms” because they are so similar to each other.


Q: Should I cancel my trip for Spring Break?
A: You should be aware that traveling on an airplane could increase the chances that you are exposed to the coronavirus. This may result in you needing to be in self-isolation for 14 days upon your return, which may impact your ability to stay on top of your course work or go to work. We advise you to evaluate your circumstances and options in the context of the risk of getting exposed to coronavirus. Read more about the CDC's travel recommendations. 

Q: How does COVID-19 impact international travel?
A: Both the Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued travel advisories to China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea (“impacted countries”). Cases continue to be identified in growing numbers internationally.

Q. What should I do if I recently traveled to a country on the CDC Alert Level 3 country list? 
A: If you have recently returned from one of the countries where COVID-19 is causing many infections (Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran most notably), you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and alert them of your recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to test you for COVID-19.

Q: What if I have been in contact with someone who has recently returned from travels to a country on the CDC Alert Level 3 country list, including a layover in one of these countries? 
A: If you have had close contact* with someone who has recently returned from travels to a country on the CDC Alert Level 3 country list, including a layover in one of these countries, you should also call a healthcare professional and mention your close contact with this person and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine testing for COVID-19.

*Close contact is defined as a household member, intimate partner and caregivers in a non-healthcare setting. 


Q: Am I at risk for COVID-19 in the United States?
A: This is a rapidly evolving situation and cases are continuing to be identified in growing numbers. For a complete list of cases and states impacted in the U.S., click here.

While you may be at risk for getting infected, it is hard to say how high that risk is. It is also hard to predict how severe your symptoms would be if you got infected because everyone has different immune systems. When thinking about your risk of disease, we encourage you also to think about the risk for other people. When you prevent yourself from getting infected, you also prevent the possibility of spreading it to someone else who may have a higher risk of having a severe infection.

Q: Has anyone in the United States gotten infected?
A: Yes. The first COVID-19 case in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. The first confirmed instance of person-person-spread with this virus in the U.S. was reported on January 30, 2020. See the current U.S. case count of COVID-19.

Q: Has anyone in Oklahoma gotten infected?
A: Yes. We currently have a small number of reported cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. Because we know where their exposure occurred, we are able to track people with whom they have been in contact and quarantine them so they don’t spread the virus to others. We will update this information if additional cases arise.

Signs & Symptoms

Q: What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A: Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath – similar to what you may feel with influenza or a bad cold. Additional information about coronavirus symptoms can be found on the CDC website. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.


Q: How is Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?
A: The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

The virus is spread by droplet transmission, which is a technical term for close contact. When you cough and sneeze, the virus travels about 3 feet (or 1 meter). This means surfaces near the infected person can become infected, as well as people within close contact.

The virus is not spread outside very well. We are more concerned about crowded conditions.

Q: How can I help protect myself?
A: Our first line of defense is to follow practices recommended for any infectious diseases such as washing our hands frequently, covering our mouths when we cough, and staying home and away from others when we are sick.

- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash or cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Additional information about the virus and how you can inform and protect yourself can be found through sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself. 

Q: Should I use of facemask in the community to prevent COVID-19?
A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. 

Q: How long does the new coronavirus live on surfaces?
A: We are still learning the details, but it appears to be a relatively hardy virus which means it is important to actively disinfect surfaces (and hands) and not assume the virus will die after an hour or two.

Q: Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?
A: According to the World Health Organization the coronaviruses does not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. 

What Should I Do?

Q: Should I be tested for COVID-19?
A: If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China and other countries where COVID-19 is causing many infections (Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran most notably), you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact. If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. 

Q: How do you test a person for COVID-19?
A: Your healthcare provider will work with you and the state health department to order tests when it is appropriate.

It is important to be aware that diagnostic tests, including the one for COVID-19, perform differently depending on the infected person’s stage of illness. That is, it performs better after people start to show symptoms. It is not as accurate in the pre-symptomatic stage.

Q: Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?
A: Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected. For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.

Other Information

Q: Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
A: It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. Because it doesn’t spread efficiently out of doors, we may see a drop in transmission as more people spend more time outdoors during the warm weather.

Q: Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?
A: While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China. There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can be infected with or spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.