Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

microscopic example of a coronavirus

Current Situation: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19) Outbreak

A novel (new) coronavirus was recently detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and is causing an outbreak of respiratory disease. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization named the disease coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated “COVID‑19”).

Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in parts of that country. COVID-19 illnesses, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, also are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States. Some person-to-person spread of this virus outside China has been detected. The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on January 30, 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed multiple cases of novel coronavirus 2019 in people under federal quarantine at JBSA-Lackland in San Antonio. The first was a traveler who returned on a U.S. State Department-chartered flight from Wuhan City, China. The others returned on a State Department flight for passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan. The individuals will remain isolated at medical facilities until they test negative for the virus and are no longer at risk of spreading it. The CDC has the latest information on the number of people under quarantine who are infected and is updating its national numbers each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

There are no other cases in Texas, and these cases do not change the risk of infection for people in San Antonio or other parts of Texas, because the patients have been under federal quarantine since their return and have not interacted with the public in Texas communities. The risk for all Texans remains low.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is working closely with CDC in monitoring the developing outbreak. See the CDC website for the latest developments on COVID-19, including current case counts:
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CDC)


Information for the Public

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, it is now clear that person-to-person spread is occurring. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19, and investigations are ongoing.

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

At this time, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS coronaviruses.

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How can I prevent COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. DSHS always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • 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.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
    • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

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What do I do if I think I may have COVID-19?

If you are experiencing fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and you have traveled to China, been exposed to a sick traveler from China, or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you should contact your healthcare provider. Be sure to call ahead before going to your doctor’s office or emergency department to prevent any potential spread.

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Where can I learn more?

To learn key facts and help stop the spread of rumors, see the Share Facts, Not Fear page on the CDC's COVID-19 website.

For more in-depth information on COVID-19, see the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

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Information for Travelers

With the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the State of Texas encourages everyone to heed the advice of the CDC and U.S. State Department's travel watches, alerts, and warnings. Companies, universities, and others with personnel in countries under a Level 3 Travel Warning should make arrangements to return their people to the United States or move them to another area where the CDC or State Department does not warn against non-essential travel.
CDC Travel Health Notices
U.S. State Department Travel Advisory

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Information for Hospitals & Healthcare Professionals

DSHS has compiled the following resources to assist hospitals and healthcare providers in the evaluation of patients who may be ill with COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus:

For disease reporting and/or local assistance, see the listing of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Local Health Entities.

Notice Regarding Testing and Submission of Specimens for COVID-19

ALL specimens for COVID-19 virus testing require preapproval. Contact your Local Health Department or DSHS Public Health Region to ensure patient meets Person Under Investigation (PUI) criteria for testing and to obtain DSHS approval to test. Specimens MUST meet PUI criteria for testing prior to shipping and WILL NOT be tested without prior approval. Please DO NOT ship specimens prior to receiving this approval.

Posted 2/10/2020

Healthcare professionals can also find interim guidance (including patient evaluation, reporting, testing, specimen collection, and prevention and control recommendations) on the CDC website:
CDC Guidance for Health Professionals

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Information for Laboratories

Laboratory professionals can find interim guidance (including guidelines for handling and processing specimens) on the CDC website:
CDC Guidance for Laboratories

(See also the Notice Regarding Testing and Submission of Specimens for COVID-19 for healthcare professionals, above.)

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Information for Public Health

DSHS has provided the below resources for public health professionals investigating possible cases of COVID-19:

Public health professionals can also find interim guidance for ships on the CDC website:
CDC Guidance for Ships

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Information for EMS Systems

Emergency medical services (EMS) systems can find interim guidance for the COVID-19 response on the CDC website:
CDC Guidance for EMS Systems

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Information for Other Specific Groups

Businesses

Businesses and employers can find interim guidance for the COVID-19 response on the CDC website:
CDC Guidance for Businesses & Employers

Schools

DSHS distributed the below guidance to Texas higher education institutions and school districts:
Letter to TX Higher Ed Institutions, School Districts, State Agencies (PDF)

Pregnant Women

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers about COVID-19 and pregnancy can be found on the CDC website:
CDC FAQs on COVID-19 & Pregnancy

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Printable Materials

The following materials can be printed for display and/or distribution to communicate key information to the public about COVID‑19:

  • Coronavirus Alert for Healthcare Settings
  • Symptoms of Coronavirus
  • Stop the Spread of Germs

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Contact Us

If you have any questions or would like more information about the content on this page, contact by email or by phone:

Email: coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov

DSHS COVID-19 Call Center: 1-877-570-9779
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

For local assistance, see the listing of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Local Health Entities.

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This page is being updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated February 27, 2020