You Think You’ve Got Coronavirus. Here's What You Should Do Next

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
March 24, 2020

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. are in the tens of thousands and rising — at this point, all 50 states have reported cases.

Because it is spreading fast – and testing has lagged – many people may already be infected. Many people may be infected with virus but are not showing signs or symptoms. The COVID-19 incubation period varies from person to person, but symptoms may not appear until two weeks after exposure. The three main symptoms for COVID-19 are dry cough, fever and shortness of breath. (Other symptoms may include fatigue, sore throat, aches/pains, runny nose or loss of sense of smell.)

If you have these three main symptoms ... 

Call Your Doctor 
Call your doctor immediately — and call before going, as your doctor’s rules about visits may have changed to control the spread of the virus. After talking to you, your doctor can determine if you should be tested for coronavirus. Testing has ramped throughout the country, particularly in the hardest hit areas. Some cities have even organized drive-thru test centers. If you need to be tested, your doctor and/or local health department can guide you where to go.

What Is the Test Like?
The test involves a nose or throat culture that’s sent to a commercial or academic lab. As of now, the turnaround time for results is several days, but this may quicken as the pandemic continues. 

Positive results suggest you’re infected. The length of time someone has coronavirus greatly varies, particularly, if you have underlying conditions such as pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Negative results don’t necessarily mean you’re fine. False negatives have been reported and could be caused by an inadequate test or poor nose/throat swab. 

Another challenge: Scientists aren’t exactly sure when the virus turns positive, according to Harvard Health. If you test negative but have symptoms, as of now, experts are not recommending a retest. Continue working with your doctors to control symptoms and prevent complications like pneumonia, double pneumonia and organ failure.

Follow Doctor’s Advice Regarding Treatment
There is no standard treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, but doctors and researchers are testing multiple new therapies. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your physician may ask you to stay at home and self-quarantine, or you may be asked to go to a hospital.

Prevent Spreading the Virus to Others
Wash your hands regularly and clean and disinfect items and surfaces that you’ve touched. Be diligent about social distancing, which includes staying home for at least two weeks after diagnosis. If you live with people, isolate yourself at best you can. And when isolating isn’t possible, maintain a six-foot distance between people.  

What About a Vaccine? 
Vaccines are currently in development. Clinical trials are in progress and show promise. But vaccines take many months to be tested, approved and produced. Until a vaccine is available, continue social distancing, handwashing efforts and disinfecting objects and surfaces. And of course, if you have concerns, call your doctor. They can tailor advice to fit your personal situation and provide you with resources for more information. 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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