The questions below will be frequently updated to reflect current information related to the coronavirus and COVID-19.
(Sources: UMMC Division of Infectious Diseases; UMMC Infection Prevention: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; World Health Organization)
Q: If I live in Mississippi, am I at risk for COVID-19 infection?
A: Mississippi is experiencing widespread transmission of COVID-19. The risk for Mississippians to be exposed and develop an infection remains high.
The Mississippi State Department of Health updates its website each morning with the current number of confirmed cases, deaths, cases by county, and other demographic information.
Q: How does COVID-19 spread?
A: The main mode of transmission of virus is by droplets created by coughing or sneezing, the same way the flu is spread. Someone can inhale the droplets and be infected, or touch their eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated fingers that have been exposed to droplets.
Spread can also occur from touching a contaminated surface and introducing the virus to your nose or mouth. And, someone who is infected but not yet experiencing symptoms can spread the virus unwittingly.
Q: How close do you have to be to someone who is positive or shedding the virus to become infected, and for how long? What if they have no symptoms?
A: Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of someone who is positive for COVID-19, including those who may not yet be showing symptoms. Experts say that contact with someone positive for the virus for about 10 minutes or longer can result in transmission.
The time from exposure to symptom onset, known as the incubation period, is three to 14 days, but symptoms typically appear within four or five days after exposure.
National health experts say that many of those infected with the virus have no symptoms, yet unwittingly are spreading the virus, accounting for widespread community transmission.
Someone with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms, and some research suggests that people are most likely to spread the virus during the 48 hours before they have symptoms.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans wear non-medical masks to curb the spread of the virus, but strongly cautions that wearing a mask does not replace social distancing.
Q: How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
A: Wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid gathering, and wash your hands properly and often – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Social distancing is staying at least six feet away from other people and avoiding going out in public. Stay home if you are sick at all, especially if you are having symptoms of the virus.
Experts advise Mississippians avoid leaving home except for purchasing essentials such as food, or for seeking essential medical care.
The CDC advises Americans to wear a non-medical mask in public, with medical-grade masks reserved for front-line health care workers. Wearing a mask does not replace the need for social distancing, sheltering at home, environmental cleaning and hand hygiene.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. For more guidance, go to the CDC's website.
Q: Are there any additional protection measures I can follow during the flu season?
The currently recommended measures (masking, social distancing, hand washing) to protect against COVID-19 will help protect you against most of the other viral infections, including flu. Additionally, do not forget to take your flu shot. It is recommended for you to take flu shot early in this flu season to avoid serious complications of flu that can lead to hospitalization and death.
Q: Who should be tested for COVID-19?
A: Guidelines from the Mississippi State Department of Health recommend testing for anyone with one or more of these symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat and breathing problems including shortness of breath. The MSDH also recommends testing for anyone who has had confirmed or potential contact with someone who is positive for the virus.
If you believe you should be tested, call your health care provider or telehealth provider. Or, those with symptoms can screened by a UMMC Center for Telehealth staff member by completing the online form at umc.edu/covidscreening. You’ll be asked screening questions and given an appointment at a free testing site sponsored by UMMC and MSDH for specimen collection. Those without online access can call 601-496-7200.
The CDC continues to update its guidelines on screening and testing.
Q: If I believe I have symptoms of COVID-19, should I come to UMMC?
A: A visit to UMMC or any other hospital Emergency Department should be limited to emergency medical condition needing immediate attention.
If you have, or suspect you have, the virus, do not go to a provider’s office without calling ahead to give staff time to protect patients and employees from potential exposure. Do not go to your emergency room unless your symptoms are severe, including breathing problems, and call ahead.
Q: If I give COVID-19 specimens at a drive-through collection, how long will it take for the results of my test?
A: The turnaround time for the UMMC Laboratory to notify you of your test results is typically a few days.
Q: I’ve gotten tested for COVID-19. What should I do next?
A: While you are awaiting test results, it’s critical that you self-isolate yourself away from other people, regardless of whether you are showing symptoms, to stem transmission of the highly contagious virus to others. Mississippi is experiencing widespread community transmission.
If you test positive, stay away from other people for at least 10 days (if you are healthy) or 20 days (if you have conditions which lower your immune system) from the onset of symptoms, and one day after the symptoms disappear or diminish significantly, whichever is longer. Leave home only to seek medical care. Treat symptoms as if you had the flu: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and use acetaminophen for aches and fever.
Stay in a specific room away from other people and pets. Use a separate bathroom if you can. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw away the tissue, and then immediately wash your hands. Don’t share personal household items with people or pets, and clean all high-touch surfaces daily.
Contact your medical provider, or call ahead before going to an emergency department, if your symptoms significantly worsen or you have trouble breathing
Q: Is anyone more susceptible to COVID-19 compared with the general population?
A: COVID-19 can affect all age groups, but those in older age groups (65 and above) and with serious health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other illnesses that compromise the immune system are more likely to experience complications from COVID-19.
Q: If I had COVID-19 infection can I get it again?
A: Few cases of COVID-19 re-infection have been reported from around the world. The incidence of re-infection seems less common thus far. However, as we are still learning about COVID-19 re-infection, it is recommended to continue to follow protection measures after recovery from COVID-19 and avoid actions which will increase risk for recurrent exposures to COVID-19.
Q: How deadly is COVID-19?
A: Mississippi and the nation continue to see a significant number of cases because a new virus is causing the disease, and there is no vaccine.
People do not have immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in adults and children hospitalized with severe disease. It is not a cure for COVID-19 and limited information is known about its safety and effectiveness, but it has been shown in clinical trials to shorten the time to recovery in some patients.
As of Sept. 18, 6.7 million Americans had contracted the virus, the highest number for any country globally. The United States also led in deaths, with 198,000 of the 948,000 fatalities globally.
Estimates vary among scientists and health experts, government officials and different forecasts based on mathematical models on how many people will eventually die from COVID-19, but the death rate is about 20 times higher than that of most strains of the flu. It is far less deadly than Ebola or a previously known coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.
Q: Should I avoid contact with my pets if I become infected with COVID-19?
A: The CDC advises those with the virus, or who believe they may be infected, to avoid contact with their pets. There have been several documented cases of animals contracting the virus worldwide, but no documented cases of animals giving the virus to people.
Learn more about taking care of your pets during the COVID-19 outbreak here.
Q: How long can the COVID-19 live on hard surfaces?
A: Studies show COVID-19 can survive up to five days on metals such as doorknobs, jewelry and silverware; four days on wood such as furniture; two to three days on plastics such as milk containers, bus seats and elevator buttons; two to three days on stainless steel such as refrigerators, pots and pans and some water bottles; 24 hours on cardboard; up to five days on glass or ceramics; two to eight hours on aluminum; and anywhere from a few minutes to five days on paper. Researchers caution, though, that you’re more likely to contract the virus from being around someone who has it than from touching a contaminated surface.
It’s not known if the virus survives longer or not as long when it’s exposed to sunlight, heat, or cold.
Follow the CDC's recommendations for frequent cleaning of surfaces and objects that are touched numerous times during the day. That can include tabletops, counters, toilets and bathroom fixtures, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, tablets, and desks or bedside tables. Find a list of CDC-approved products for COVID-19 cleaning here.
Don’t forget to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after bringing in packages, going to public places, or touching surfaces that could be infected.
Q: Is it safe to fly?
A: The CDC recommends against Americans making any unnecessary domestic and international travel and taking cruises. Travelers should take into account restrictions imposed by airlines and limited flight schedules if they intend to fly.
The World Health Organization says to practice proper hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette on an airplane and stay away from people who are sick. Crowded travel settings including airplanes and airports may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with the virus.
For more information on how you can protect yourself on an airplane, visit the U.S> Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website here.