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Your coronavirus questions answered: A Houston health expert on identifying symptoms, going to the doctor and silent carriers

Medical personnel discuss patients that had been admitted for testing for the coronavirus at the entrance Central Maine Medical Center on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Lewiston, Maine. U.S. hospitals are setting up circus-like triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Medical personnel discuss patients that had been admitted for testing for the coronavirus at the entrance Central Maine Medical Center on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Lewiston, Maine. U.S. hospitals are setting up circus-like triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Dozens of Houstonians sent us the COVID-19 questions concerning them most. We shared them with Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room, a longtime physician with experience working in Houston trauma centers and emergency rooms.

Here, Nriagu answers five coronavirus-related questions we received from readers:

1. If I visited an emergency room in the past couple of weeks, how would I know if I’m at risk?

Rest assured that over the last few weeks, most hospitals have been working to monitor and isolate patients and visitors with travel related risk factors or potential contact with infected people.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and visited a ER within the last two weeks, contact your local medical provider for guidance.

2. If you end up with the coronavirus, do you isolate yourself in a room in your house? Or do you just keep yourself at home with your family?

Disease experts estimate that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to three others. Distance yourself from family members infected with Covid. Wash hands and disinfect surfaces regularly.

3. What if you do have some of the symptoms? Like a cough and sore throat? No fever. No runny nose. Do you go to a doctor? Call the health department?

No, do not go to the doctor. You are considered low risk. Low to moderate risk patients are not being tested for Covid-19 at this time. Self quarantine is recommended until tests become available, but contact your local primary care provider for guidance.

4. I am wondering why the CDC isn’t testing more for the coronavirus?

The tests - labs and equipment necessary to run tests for covid-19 are limited. Production is ramping up, though.

5. Is there an eventual plan to test people without a doctor’s order?

Currently CDC guidelines make it clear that Americans can be tested with a doctors order. Because test supplies are limited, those who are severely sick or who were in contact with known cases of COVID-19 are prioritized.

6. Could we all be silent carriers at this point?

Clinical research supports the idea of “sub-clinical” carriers ... patients with mild disease. But silent carriers have not been identified.

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