What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. It is spread primarily through droplets of saliva or mucus and can lead to mild-to-severe respiratory illness. There is no known cure.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Most of the time—roughly 85%—a person who gets Covid-19 has either no symptoms at all or symptoms like the flu: headache, fever, sore throat, cough, fatigue, and/or muscle aches. It tends to get better in a week but can last up to 21 days. About 15% of people develop a more serious illness similar to pneumonia (shortness of breath, chest pain, bad cough). Approximately 2 to 3% of people who get the virus, especially the elderly, will be hospitalized and run the risk of dying.

How long is the coronavirus incubation period?

The incubation period—the time between catching the virus and showing symptoms—can range from 2 to 14 days. It is most commonly 4 to 5 days.

 How long does the infection last?

The infection seems to last for up to 2 weeks in most people, but there is no definitive answer. If you lose your sense of smell and taste, they will return the vast majority of the time, but it may take weeks or even months.

Who is at the highest level of risk?

The people most at risk are 65 and older, live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, are immunocompromised, smoke, or suffer from a chronic medical condition like asthma, lung or heart disease, or diabetes.

What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Quarantine is for people or groups who don’t have symptoms but were exposed to the illness. Isolation is for people who are confirmed to have had the virus.

Is it possible to get Covid-19 twice?

There’s no clear answer yet. When you recover from being infected, it is likely that you develop some level of immunity, but it’s not clear how long that immunity may last.

How should I keep myself healthy?

To stay healthy, there are a number of preventative measures you can take:

Follow governmental recommendations about quarantine and social distancing.

Wear a mask or cloth face covering in public.

Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, for 20-30 seconds, focusing on all parts, including your nails.

Use at least 70% alcohol hand sanitizer frequently.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Try to get 8 hours of sleep.

Perform moderate exercise, ideally every day.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Wash your hands before eating.

Try to remain 6 feet from people when you go outside your home.

Regularly disinfect high-touch metal and hard plastic surfaces like doorknobs and light switches with disinfecting spray or wipes.

How can I keep my family safe?

You can keep them safe by staying healthy yourself and by making sure they follow the same exact steps that keep you healthy.

Do masks prevent infection?

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is also advised the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

How do I wear a cloth face covering?

Cloth face coverings should:

fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

be secured with ties or ear loops

include multiple layers of fabric

allow for breathing without restriction

be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

What do I do if I feel sick?

Follow the protocols as listed on this web, but first of all: remain calm—and isolated. Most patients will either be asymptomatic or have mild traditional flu-like symptoms for about a week. Treatment is the same as the flu: hydrate, take Tylenol for fever control, and stay home (but with even more self-isolation than the flu), while also washing your hands and covering your coughs to minimize spread. As always, you can speak with our expert physicians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or order a house call for Covid testing and additional treatment. We are also here to advise whether you need more advanced care or hospitalization if your symptoms worsen. 

How does the disease progress?

Most people have a slow and steady progression of illness, starting with a week of flu-like symptoms, usually followed by recovery. If not, around Day 7 the disease progresses to pneumonia-like symptoms before the patient recovers. Worst case, between Day 7-10, the disease can progress to ARDS (Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome) and require hospitalization. For especially frail or sick patients, this timeline may be accelerated.

When should I call HouseMD ?

Call us immediately if you have mild, moderate or severe symptoms. We can provide regular telemedicine visits or arrange house calls, and we can also send you medications and/or equipment as clinically appropriate.

How do I know if I am getting worse?

Mild symptoms include: 

Low grade fever (99-101) 

Dry cough

Mild chest pain

Sore throat 

Loss of taste and smell 

Muscle aches and fatigue 

 Moderate symptoms include: 

Temperature of 102 or above

Chest pain requiring medication

Shortness of breath with a light activity like walking down the street or up stairs 

 Severe symptoms include: 

Inability to catch your breath at rest

Severe fatigue where you can’t perform any activity 

Decreased alertness

Heart rate over 120

Oxygen level in low-90s or below

What happens if I progress to the second phase of illness?

The 15% of people who progress to the next phase will experience pneumonia-like symptoms. For these patients, we have partnered with home imaging companies who will come to your house and provide chest X-rays to help differentiate between pneumonia (which responds well to antibiotics) and Covid-19. We have also partnered with great home nurses who can help with your care, as well as DME (durable medical equipment) providers who can bring oxygen to support lung function while you recover.

When should I call 911 or go to the emergency room?

If you have severe chest pain or trouble breathing, call 911 or go to the ER.

For the 2 or 3% of patients who progress to ARDS (Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome) and need ICU-level care, we will advocate for you by leveraging our relationships with local hospitals and Emergency Departments to support your care—and also help with transport via our private ambulance partners.

Are there any medications that can help me?

There is no proven treatment for coronavirus. You may take Tylenol for fever, aches or pains; cough medication; decongestants like Theraflu and Vicks VapoRub; and other remedies such as neti pot, cough drops, hot tea with honey, and hot soups. If you have moderate to severe symptoms, there might be limited benefit in taking hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), but there are also some rare but concerning side effects. In certain cases with a possible separate bacterial infection, antibiotic may be prescribed.

How long do I need to remain isolated?

You should remain isolated until you meet two conditions. First, wait 14 days after your symptoms first started. Second, wait 3 days after your fever and cough have stopped. While isolated, wear a surgical mask as much as possible. Masks can help prevent the spread of virus-containing mucus droplets from your cough to the air or nearby surfaces and objects. If you have to leave your room, remain 6 feet from other people in your home.

What if I need a ventilator?

We have relationships with local pulmonologist departments to try and get our members access to ventilators as soon as possible, but we can’t guarantee it in a pandemic. We do have at-home oxygen concentrators to support lung function if there is a shortage of hospital beds

What is the wait time for a house call for a Covid test?

Due to high volume during the pandemic, the wait time is 24 to 48 hours. But if you’re high-risk, we will prioritize you. And if your life is in danger, we’ll advise you not to wait for a test and to go straight to a hospital, where we will advocate on your behalf. No matter what, you’ll be able to speak with our ER physicians at any time throughout the process.

How long does it take for the Covid-19 test to come back?

Results are presently available in 24 hours.

If I test negative for Covid-19, does that definitely mean I don’t have it?

The tests are not perfect, especially due to the 2 to 14 days it may take for Covid-19 to present after exposure, so testing negative does not completely exclude the possibility. The primary reason for a false-negative result is testing too early in the course of the virus to be detected. In the event of a negative, we will continue to treat your symptoms and will likely suggest self-quarantine to reduce risk of transmission.

If I test negative, do I still need to quarantine myself?

You do not need to quarantine yourself in a specific room in your home. But you should stay home as much as possible. If you need to go out, try to remain 6 feet from others and consider wearing a mask or cloth substitute. You can meet up with a friend or two if no one is sick and you maintain the recommended 6 feet, but you should absolutely avoid social gatherings of more than a few people.

Under what circumstances should I retest?

We do not recommend retesting unless you are a healthcare professional. We recommend the CDC’s non-retesting isolation protocol (see above). You should only be retested if you develop moderate to severe symptoms, including temperature of 100.4 F or above, chest pain requiring medication, and shortness of breath. If you require retesting to return to work or travel, then we can facilitate.

If I get a house call for coronavirus, can my entire family be tested?

We recommend you to test your entire family. 

Can you help my company return to work safely?

HouseMD can provide corporate memberships that assist with Covid-19 back to work protocols to ensure your team is safe. Corporate memberships can include: 

A medical professional on-site to handle Covid-19 testing (PCR and antibody) with rapid turn-around times

Digital health assessments and daily checks of key vital signs (temperature, oxygen levels and heart rate). 

In case of contraction, management of Covid-19 care on set  (oxygen support, chest X-rays, vital sign monitoring). 

Return to work protocols and retesting to ensure safety for the crew 

Is the coronavirus test covered by insurance? YES. The test is covered by most insurance plans. 

Which antibody test are we using?

Our antibody test, developed by EUA FDA-authorized, with published accuracy of 99.8% specificity and 100% sensitivity. This test targets antibodies reactive to both the nucleocapsid (N) and spike (S) Covid-19 proteins.

How do I get my antibody test?

In order to perform an antibody test, we perform a house call or see you at one of our centers (pending a screening call with a doctor). The house call is typically a $299 charge.  The lab running the analysis is covered by you health insurance. The results should be available within 48-72 hours. If you would like to schedule an antibody test, please contact our 24/7 medical hotline, at 347-323-6397

How long does it take an infected person to develop antibodies?

These antibodies take time to develop, so any antibody testing should not take place immediately after infection. The optimal time to perform the test is at least 17-21 days after the start of your initial symptoms or the date you believe you were infected if you are asymptomatic. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to show antibodies if indeed you were infected by Covid-19. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the antibody test may yield a false negative and not find antibodies in someone with a current Covid-19 infection.

What’s the difference between PCR swab tests and antibody tests?

The current swab test uses PCR technology to find the presence of the virus and determine whether you’re infected. It is the most accurate way to see if you have Covid-19. The antibody blood test looks at the antibody build-up in your bloodstream to determine if you had it in the past (IgG). However, the antibody test is less accurate than the PCR test.

Should I get an antibody test if I have symptoms?

No, for sick patients,  we prefer a PCR swab test in order to drive treatment decisions.

Will the antibody test tell me if I had Covid previously and if I am immune?

The antibody test can identify the build-up of long-term antibodies (IgG) that may indicate you have had Covid-19. It is still not known if you can contract the disease again, although we believe it may suggest some immunity. However, there is the potential of a false positive, where the antibodies identified are in fact caused by an alternative coronavirus or disease. For this reason, we do not change our social distancing recommendation based on this test.