March 15, 2020 – You develop a little cough. Maybe you’re feeling run down. Maybe you feel you might have a low-grade fever. You are starting to think you have Coronavirus. What do you do?
The first thing YOU DO NOT DO is go to the ER, Urgent Care or show up at your doctor’s office. State health officials and the CDC say doing so can only put you and others at risk.
So what do you do?:
If you think you might have Coronavirus, the first thing to do is CALL your health care provider. If you have mild symptoms, your healthcare provider may ask you to self-quarantine and avoid contact with others. Feeling symptoms does not mean you will be tested for the virus.
Why? Because there are people who need to be tested more than you.
Criteria for testing has indeed expanded as of March 12th due to community spread, meaning you maybe haven’t traveled recently or haven’t been in contact with someone who is infected. But this doesn’t mean symptoms alone will warrant a test. Until recently, tests were in short supply. IDPH recently announced the approval of several private labs that will increase the number of tests performed. But your healthcare provider will still likely follow testing criteria.
When you call your healthcare provider, you will be asked questions to determine your need for a test. Those criteria now include:
Fever and signs of lower respiratory illness ( cough/ shortness of breath)
AND any of the following epidemiologic or other factors:
- Contact: Any person, including health care workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
- Travel: A history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset (currently China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, parts of Europe, and Japan)
- Congregant living or Healthcare facility: The individual is from a congregate living or health care facility (staff and/or patient/resident) with clusters of infection not due to influenza and suspected to be due to COVID-19, as determined in collaboration with public health authorities
- Medical risk factors: The patient is at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and for whom rapid test results are more likely to impact clinical care/outcomes (e.g. older adults (age ≥ 65 years)) OR is an individual with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes. Those conditions include but are not limited to diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease.
- Public health concern: Other situations involving patients that clinicians have thoroughly evaluated and are deemed high priority after consultation with public health.
- Hospitalization: Hospitalized patients with unexplained pneumonia where a physician has evaluated the patient and is concerned about COVID-19
If you are a healthy individual that does not meet these guidelines, the Illinois Department of Public Health advises you to stay home, distance yourself from others, practice good hygiene and treat yourself for symptoms as you would the flu. That includes staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep and (if advised by your physician) taking over the counter medicine to reduce fever and symptoms.