4 new coronavirus questions answered: A Houston health expert discusses daycares, traveling and COVID-19 testing

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HOUSTON – We’ve received questions from Houstonians on concerns with COVID-19 and shared them with Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room who is also a longtime physician with experience working in Houston trauma centers and emergency rooms.

She took the time to answer some of your questions from readers:

How do we know if we need to be tested for Covid-19? It is flu and allergy season right now.

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath) and have been in contact with an individual with a known case of COVID-19 then you should assume that you have COVID-19, self-isolate and contact your local (health) provider for guidance.

What are the risks when daycares don’t close during this time?

Preliminary data suggests that children can be infected by COVID-19 but do not appear to become very ill when infected. The death rate in children between 0-9 years of age is currently at 0%. The death rate in children between 10-19 years is currently 0.2%. Children are definite spreaders of COVID-19. If we do not close daycares, kids may become infected with COVID-19, some kids (especially those with pre-existing conditions) may die and COVID-19 will continue to spread in the U.S.

I am 65, is it safe to go to the health club to exercise?

Social Distancing means staying away from places where people meet and gather — including health clubs. Germs can collect on exercise equipment, gym mats, etc... If you decide to continue to use public health clubs consider disinfecting surfaces, reducing interpersonal contact, and maintaining distance from other individuals at the gym. You may also want to consider outdoor exercises such as walks, runs and bike rides as an alternative right now.

Is it safe to travel via plane considering the dangers of spreading the infection?

Transmission of infection in airplanes may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft. This is usually as a result of an infected individual coughing or sneezing or by touch. This is no different from any other situation in which people are in close proximity to each other. Travelers should disinfect the area where they are seated, wash their hands often, avoid touching their face and try to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Most modern aircraft have re-circulation systems that recycle up to 50% of cabin air. The re-circulated air is usually passed through HEPA filters (used in hospitals and ICU’s). These filters can trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses.