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Who should be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

Ask a Doctor

I haven’t been feeling well and think I may have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Should I get tested and where should I go? How do I know if this is an emergency?

Doctor's Response

With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic causing worldwide panic, it’s important to know the facts about the virus so you don’t put your health or the health of others at risk. First, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of coronavirus so you know when it’s time to call a doctor and seek medical help. 

Most cases of coronavirus feel very much like a common cold or flu and typically go away on their own. Coronavirus also highly contagious, and can spread easily through coronavirus-containing droplets you’re exposed to when someone coughs or sneezes into the air, or by coming into contact with them after touching your eyes, face, nose or mouth. Coronavirus is also spread in enclosed spaces and crowded public places.

Symptoms of coronavirus may include:

Not everyone experiences all of the above symptoms. Some people may only experience very mild symptoms. 

The following are considered emergency symptoms of COVID-19 and require immediate medical care:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. If you experience any symptoms that are severe or concerning, contact your medical provider immediately.

    Do you need to be tested for Coronavirus (COVID-10)?

    • If you have been exposed to COVID-19, have traveled to an area where there has been an ongoing spread of COVID-19, and have signs and symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, please contact your doctor or healthcare provider for medical advice and whether you require testing.
    • If you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or are a resident in a community where there has been an outbreak of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider about your symptoms and whether you should be tested.
    • Even if your symptoms are mild but you are over the age of 65 and/or have a serious underlying medical condition such as COPD, diabetes, or heart or lung disease, you are at a higher risk for developing more serious complications and should contact your healthcare provider regarding testing and medical care.
    • The incubation period for coronaviruses varies, and it can take between two to 14 days of exposure to show symptoms. It is possible for a negative result in the early stages of the virus. If you have had a negative result, but are still experiencing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.

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    Reviewed on 3/20/2020
    References

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    United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Coronavirus Disease 2019."