Coronavirus: What do if you think you were exposed to someone with the virus

Avatar Mildred Europa Taylor | Editor March 20, 2020

Women wear face masks as protection against coronavirus. Photo: Barry Lewis/In Pictures via Getty Images

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus keeps growing every day, leading many to wonder what they should do if they think they have been exposed to the virus.

Note that not everyone who is exposed to the virus will be infected while some who catch it will only have minor symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Experts say that often symptoms like cough, fever, or shortness of breath will develop five to six days after exposure. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can take as long as 14 days for symptoms to develop. If, after those 14 days, none of the symptoms emerge, then you are likely safe.

There have been times too that people who fear they have been exposed to the virus didn’t meet the criteria for exposure.

Now here is how to know if you have been exposed:

According to Washington State Department of Health, you generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. It says close contact includes:

Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19,

Caring for a sick person with COVID-19,

Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 10 minutes, or

Being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).

“If you have not been in close contact with a sick person with COVID-19, you are at low risk for infection. You can continue to go to work and school, but should monitor your health for 14 days since the contact and stay away from others if you get sick,” it says.

But what should you do if you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while they were ill but you were not?

“You should monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid public places for 14 days,” says the Washington State Department of Health.

Other health experts say that if you develop symptoms in line with the coronavirus, and you do not feel sick, treat yourself as if you have the flu. Essentially, stay home, rest, and monitor your symptoms.

People who are otherwise healthy do improve but if a fever persists for over a few days, or the symptoms become severe, contact a doctor.

Here’s what you should do if you were in close contact with someone with the virus and get sick:

“If you get sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are very mild), you likely have COVID-19. You should isolate yourself at home and away from other people.

“If you have any of the following conditions that may increase your risk for a serious infection—age 60 years or older, are pregnant, or have medical conditions—contact your physician’s office and tell them that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. They may want to monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19,” says the Washington State Department of Health.

It adds that if you do not have a high-risk condition but want medical advice, call your healthcare provider and tell them you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if you need to be evaluated in person or tested.

Coronavirus, officially known as COVID_19, has killed more than 7,000 people and affected over 200,000 worldwide since it emerged last December.

People are currently being advised to protect against the spread of the virus with actions such as washing their hands and covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Countries around the world have also canceled flights while tightening controls at borders to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.