COVID-19: What to Know, How to Prepare

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By News Team on March 13, 2020

When an unfamiliar illness spreads, so does the public’s fears about it. 

That has certainly been the case for COVID-19, the illness caused by a new virus commonly known as coronavirus.

Providing information our community can rely on is a responsibility Carilion Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control team takes very seriously. Since it began spreading, Carilion teams have been preparing to help limit its impact in our region
Everyone has a role in protecting themselves and those around them. Read on to learn what you need to know about coronavirus and what you can do to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

What is COVID-19 and What Will Happen If You Catch It?  

The current coronavirus outbreak may be new—but “coronaviruses” as a family of viruses have been infecting people for a long time. Some, like Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the SARS outbreak of 2003, have a high probability of causing serious illness. Several others circulate each winter and cause “common colds.”
COVID-19 causes mild to moderate cold- or flu-like symptoms in most people. About 80 percent of individuals who catch it will recover without medical treatment. But for some people, especially the elderly or those with underlying health conditions, it can cause pneumonia, serious illness and/or death. 

Common signs of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • A cough
  • A runny or sniffly nose

What You Can Do  

None of us are powerless to help protect ourselves and our families, or to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.  
The following are healthy habits to get into at any time, and can now help reduce your risk of catching COVID-19:  

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
  • Remember to wash your hands after coming home from a public place, after handling cash and before touching food or your face   
  • Wash fresh produce after buying   
  • Sanitize surfaces and door handles regularly; if you use a public computer, sanitize the mouse and keyboard before use 
  • Sanitize your cellphone frequently   
  • Bring your own pen to places like the bank or your doctor’s office 
  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick   
  • Eat well, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest to help keep your immune system at its strongest 

Take these actions to help avoid spreading illnesses like COVID-19:  

  • Cover your face with tissues or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze 
  • Wash your hands after blowing your nose   
  • Stay home if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms   
  • Disinfect objects and surfaces in your home if you live with others (especially in the kitchen and bathroom)  
  • Wear a surgical mask if you have respiratory symptoms and are seeking medical care in a hospital or clinic; they are often available in health care lobbies or you can ask check-in staff to provide you with one  
  • Call ahead if possible before seeking medical care for a possible COVID-19 infection; that way, staff can ask screening questions over the phone and prepare to provide care while keeping others safe 

And remember, while it’s important to prepare, it’s just as important not to panic. Most people who come down with COVID-19 will recover on their own—and are at more risk of spreading the virus to others than they are for serious illness.
By avoiding panic while taking informed precautions, we can all work together to protect the most vulnerable while minimizing disruptions in our community as much as possible. 


This article was reviewed March 12, 2020 by Thomas M. Kerkering, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.I.D.S.A., Professor of Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Carilion Clinic message saying wash your hands and stay home when you are sick

Visit for up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19. Call our Community Hotline for general questions about symptoms, resources, guidelines and more,

COVID-19 Community Hotline
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Do not call the Community Hotline to make appointments, or to request testing or test results. For information about COVID-19 and your personal health, talk with your primary care provider