Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) - Public Health
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Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

What you should know

VA is working closely with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners, monitoring an outbreak of Novel Coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The World Health Organization on February 11, 2020, proposed an official name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19.

Cases have been identified in the United States* and other international locations.* This new strain belongs to a group of viruses called coronavirus which can cause symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath.

VA has activated its emergency management coordination cell (EMCC) and is implementing an aggressive and collaborative public health response to protect and care for Veterans. At this time, no Veterans receiving care at VA have been diagnosed with COVID-19. United States is actively screening everyone who has traveled in China for this new disease. Americans who come back from the part of China where the number of infections is very high are required to limit close contact with other people and report changes in their health. VA has been planning for this type of event and is prepared to protect and care for Veterans who receive their health care from VA.

What precautions to take

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the COVID-19 infection and no medication to treat it. CDC believes symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. These basic health measures can reduce the spread of infection.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to mark the time is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice while scrubbing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 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 or becoming sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (not your hands) and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Getting a flu shot is recommended.

What precautions to take when traveling

The U.S. government has imposed travel restrictions for all non-essential travel to China. Additionally, U.S. citizens returning from the region will undergo enhanced screening procedures. Generally, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of U.S. citizens, permanent residents and flight crew) who have traveled in China within 14 days of their arrival, will be denied entry into the U.S. If you have international travel plans, review this specific guidance for travelers.*

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have both

  • symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath and
  • have either recently returned from China or have direct exposure to others diagnosed with COVID-19.

Call before visiting your local VA medical center to seek care. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow the precautions listed above.

Links to CDC resources such as FAQs and fact sheets

* Links with an asterisk (*) next to them will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.