COVID-19 (formerly called Novel Coronavirus)

Frequently Asked Questions


Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people. Previous coronavirus outbreaks have included severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes the risk to the American public of becoming infected with this new novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is low.


Fever, cough, sore throat, and, in some cases, difficulty breathing. For many cases, it presents a lot like the flu.


Although we have a lot to learn about this virus, it appears to spread like other respiratory viruses—by people with the infection coughing and sneezing. These droplets are inhaled by other people or moved to the eyes, nose or mouth by contaminated hands.


The risk to people in the United States is currently low. Almost all of the cases are occurring in China, with a relatively small number of cases in other countries. Nearly all those cases originated in China.


Currently, the CDC recommends that only people with a combination of symptoms and risk factors need testing. If you have fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough and difficulty breathing AND you have traveled to China within the last 14 days of becoming ill, you should be tested. You should also be tested if you have symptoms and had close contact with a person who was ill and is being investigated for the virus.


One person in Washington State has been diagnosed with COVID 19. This person was infected while traveling in Wuhan City, China.


Epidemic refers to "an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area." The number of cases of this disease has risen dramatically since it was first described in December 2019 and has spread well beyond the original area. It is considered an epidemic.


As of Friday, January 31st, 2020, there are no patients with this infection at UW Medical Center – Montlake or UW Medical Center – Northwest, Harborview Medical Center or Valley Medical Center. Two patients were evaluated and have been discharged pending the results of their tests. Both patients are working with local public health authorities and are not going into public spaces


No. The risk to anyone living in the United States remains low. All hospitals and clinics have protocols and systems in place to keep all patients, visitors and healthcare workers safe.


All of the UW Medicine hospitals have protocols in place to assess the risk for someone presenting to an emergency department or clinic with this infection. People with cold- or flu-like symptoms are being asked to wear a mask and also about travel history in the prior 14 days. People who we feel might have the virus are moved out of public spaces and into rooms where they can be taken care of safely. The UW School of Medicine and their researchers are working on learning more about the virus, creating new tests and developing possible treatments and even vaccines.


The most important steps to take are the same as for every cold and flu season: Wash your hands frequently. Stay home when feeling ill. If you experience symptoms, call your provider’s office. They will help you determine if you need to be seen and provide you with instructions for seeking medical care.


Please call 206.520.2285 or 1.855.520.2285. A recorded message will help you reach a provider.