Frequently Asked Questions

General information about coronavirus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is a respiratory illness with confirmed person-to-person spread — believed to occur from the exchange of respiratory fluids. The CDC recommends prevention techniques like washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoiding your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

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A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 20% of Americans who were sick enough to be hospitalized by the virus as of March 16 were 20–44 years old. This underscores the need for people of all ages to adhere to social distancing recommendations. Slowing transmission by social distancing will allow health officials to scale-up testing and treatment capacity to minimize the health impacts of this pandemic.

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Please visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources or resources and contact information for members of the Penn State community.

For information from national and global health organizations, visit: https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources/story/national-and-international-health-resources.

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University Park students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should begin the screening process for coronavirus over the phone by calling the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. Students at Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider immediately if they have respiratory symptoms with a fever and have recently traveled or think they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Beginning March 16, University Health Services will only see patients with a scheduled appointment and will not be accepting walk-ins. If you are experiencing upper respiratory infection or flu-like illness, you will need to call the UHS Advice Nurse line at 814-863-4463 prior to having an appointment scheduled.

All other individuals with medical concerns can call the UHS appointment line at 814-863-0774.

According to the CDC, anyone who feels sick should:

  • Seek medical advice — Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about any recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Stay home and avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

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For the most up-to-date information about prevention and treatment, review guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization also has a comprehensive collection of resources for members of the public to recognize signs of the disease, and to reduce the chances of infection. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine to prevent infection. The CDC recommends that people take the following preventive actions to protect themselves and others from respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, 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.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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Although much remains unknown about how this new strain of coronavirus spreads, according to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The CDC says it may be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. Learn more about transmission at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html.

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Common signs of coronavirus include mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

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