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With lots of information in the news about coronavirus, it can be hard to understand the facts. Learn who’s at risk and whether you need to be tested.

by Pragya Dhaubhadel, infectious diseases specialist at Geisinger Community Medical Center

One of the most common questions about the novel coronavirus (the illness that causes COVID-19) is, “Do I need to get tested?”

You may feel confused or anxious about the virus — and that’s normal. But understanding your symptoms and risk (and whether you need to get tested) may help reduce some of your anxiety.

Coronavirus: Assessing your risk

We’re in the time of year when different types of illnesses circulate — common colds, seasonal flu and allergies, to name a few. And the symptoms for these conditions can resemble COVID-19. 

The good news? Most people who do contract COVID-19 will not become seriously ill. If you do come down with the virus, you’ll likely experience mild respiratory symptoms, and you will recover. 

However, some people do have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

These include:

  • Older adults (60+) 
  • People with severe chronic health or immunocompromised conditions, including:
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Lung disease (including asthma, COPD and emphysema)
    • Cancers
    • Hepatitis B
    • Kidney disease
    • Autoimmune conditions

In general, people with these risk factors are more likely to experience symptoms and complications when infected with a virus, including COVID-19. But they do not face a greater chance of contracting the virus. It’s just a bigger concern if they do.

Coronavirus testing guidance: “Do I need to get tested?”

For most people, the simple answer is no — you won’t need to be tested for COVID-19 if you don’t have symptoms of respiratory illness. 

Here’s why.

Outside of health-related risk factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined guidelines, which Geisinger and health providers across the nation are adhering to, for the prioritization of COVID-19 tests, which are used for: 

  • Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing

AND
  • Who have been in close contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 or who has had a laboratory-confirmed positive test
  • Who have a high likelihood of being exposed through traveling or living in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19

Like many other healthcare providers, Geisinger has developed our own test for COVID-19 to make testing more widely available for those who need it most.

However, we’re still prioritizing testing for those in our communities who have a high risk for infection or who require more immediate medical attention. We’re also testing those who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and who’ve been in contact with someone who’s been infected.  

If you think you may have coronavirus

If you’re sick, self-isolate by staying at home for 14 days to monitor your symptoms. Focus on getting rest, drinking lots of fluids and practicing good hand hygiene to keep yourself and others safe. Call your primary care doctor or our dedicated 24/7 hotline at 570-284-3657 if:

  • You’re experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath
  • Your cold/flu symptoms last longer than 3 days
  • Your symptoms get worse

The CDC also outlines what to do if you have possible or confirmed COVID-19.

Testing: If you’ve been diagnosed with coronavirus

If you receive a positive test result for COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild, here’s what to do:

  • Immediately self-isolate at home for 14 days
  • If you live with others, stay in a single, designated room away from family members and avoid contact with them for at least 14 days (and until you are completely well with no fever)
  • Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough to prevent the spread of germs

Head to the nearest hospital ER if your symptoms are severe, worsen or if you have difficulty breathing

If possible, call the ER ahead of time to let them you know you are coming, and you have tested positive for COVID-19. If you’re alone or in distress, call 911.

Staying calm and self-care

No matter which situation you find yourself in, try to stay calm and remember that taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally plays a big part in your overall health.

If we each do our part, we can work together to slow and prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep our families, friends and neighbors healthy.

Next steps:

Handwashing matters. Here’s why.
Visit our coronavirus resource center
Read our coronavirus FAQ page

The power of social distancing
Man suspects he might have coronavirus-checking his temperature

Geisinger COVID-19 hotline

570-284-3657

Call our 24/7 hotline for answers about care recommendations and more.

Visit Geisinger’s Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information and helpful resources.

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