Coronavirus FAQs for the General Public

News Update

Updated March 27, 2020 12:00 PM

Preguntas frecuentes sobre el coronavirus para el público en general

Sedgwick County Health Department monitors and investigates reports of disease every day, from whooping cough and chickenpox to tuberculosis and HIV. Staff are trained in methods to reduce the spread of disease. You can help, too. COVID-19 is a new disease but it spreads the same as the flu, through respiratory droplets (ex. coughing and sneezing).

The Sedgwick County Health Department recommends all older adults and those with a serious underlying health condition (a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system) self-isolate (stay home and away from other people).

 What should I do if I recently traveled?

 KDHE is now mandating 14-day home quarantine for Kansans who have:

 If you have any questions regarding these recommendations or if they apply to you, please call the Sedgwick County Health Department at 316-660-7300.

The Sedgwick County Health Department will notify the public if conditions change.

What does home quarantine or self-isolation mean?

Home quarantine or self-isolation means that you should not attend school, work, or any other setting where you are not able to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. This novel virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Health experts are still studying how this novel virus spreads. Likely, it is spread by respiratory droplets.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have reported mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

What are severe complications from this virus?

In severe cases, infection can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. People over 60 years old and those with other underlying health conditions are more likely to have severe illness.

How soon after exposure do symptoms start?

In general, symptoms appear 2 – 14 days after exposure.

How can I help protect myself and my family?

Testing for COVID-19

Healthcare providers should evaluate exposure history and symptoms and call KDHE if COVID-19 is suspected. KDHE only approves COVID-19 testing requests from healthcare providers and local health departments.

People who are currently being tested for COVID-19 should remain in home isolation, or hospital isolation if symptoms are severe enough to be hospitalized, until test results are available. If the test result is negative, isolation is no longer required. If test results are positive for COVID-19, the person must remain in isolation until released by public health.

For testing information, please call United Way’s 2-1-1.

I’m showing symptoms of COVID-19. Should I be tested?

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory viruses. You should contact your healthcare provider and they will discuss risk for you.  Your healthcare provider may want to rule out other diagnoses. If you meet the criteria outline in “What should I do if I recently traveled,” please call 316-660-7300.

How do we test for COVID-19?

A healthcare provider obtains swabs of a person’s nose and throat for the test. The provider sends the swabs to a commercial laboratory or contacts the state health department (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) for testing approval and specimen submission.

How long do test results typically take?

Once samples are received at the state health department laboratory, the testing takes four hours. If the test result is negative (no COVID-19 virus), no further testing is needed. If the test result is positive (COVID-19 virus present), the state health department laboratory reports as a “positive” and sends a sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation. If samples are sent to a commercial lab, results can be expected in three to four days. Healthcare providers and the local health department in the patient’s county are notified of positive test results.

What is the difference between a sample collection kit and a test kit?

A sample collection kit is a kit containing all supplies and order forms needed for healthcare providers to collect a throat and nasopharyngeal swab from a person suspected of having COVID-19. A test kit is what laboratory staff uses with the machine to test for COVID-19.

KDHE Testing Prioritization Change

Due to widescale shortages of laboratory supplies and reagents, testing for COVID-19 at the state lab is being prioritized for public health purposes and urgent need. KDHE will be prioritizing specimens for COVID-19 testing based upon those who meet Kansas’ patient under investigation (PUI) criteria effective as of March 23, 2020.

Those include:

Is it safe to open packages that have arrived from China?

Yes. In general, coronaviruses only live for a few hours on surfaces. Coronaviruses on or in packages from other countries likely will not survive transport.

Is there a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus (See “How can I help protect myself and my family?”)

Is there a treatment?

There are no medications specifically approved for this novel coronavirus. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some people have developed pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is a person who has been within about 6 feet of a person with confirmed novel coronavirus infection for a prolonged period of time (more than 10 minutes) or has had direct contact with body fluids from a person with confirmed novel coronavirus infection.

What is a “person under investigation (PUI)?”

A person under investigation (PUI) is an ill person with possible novel coronavirus infection. A PUI is someone who meets one of the criteria below. If a person is considered a PUI, KDHE will coordinate with the local health department and healthcare provider to collect samples for testing.

What is the Person Under Investigation (PUI) criteria?

Suspect cases can be reported to the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline (1-877-427-7317).

What is a confirmed case?

A confirmed case is defined as a person who has tested positive at the state health department laboratory or at a commercial laboratory AND at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When can a person who tests positive resume normal activities?

A person can resume normal activities when two test results come back negative, indicating no virus.

What steps do health department staff take to investigate people who may have COVID19?

  1. If a person is identified as a Person Under Investigation (PUI), the person is tested and remains at home. The Sedgwick County Health Department is notified and remains in contact with the person.
  2. Samples are collected from the PUI and sent to the state health department laboratory for testing.
  3. While waiting for test results, health department staff will interview the PUI to create a detailed timeline of where he or she went while potentially infectious. Officials will create a contact list of people who had close contact with the PUI.
    1. If the test result comes back positive (virus is present), health department staff will contact those who had close contact with the PUI. Contacts will be asked to self-monitor for fever, cough, and difficulty breathing for 14 days after the last time they were in close contact with the positive case.
    2. If the test result are negative, the PUI can return to normal activities.

How will people be informed if they have been in contact with a case?

If a person is identified as a contact of a case, the Sedgwick County Health Department will call them. After the initial call, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) contacts the person via an automated text message system every day for 14 days.

How does the automated text message system work?

The text message will prompt the person to press a button if they are experiencing a fever and respiratory symptoms.

Should I be concerned about pets or other animals and COVID-19?

To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, wash your hands after being around animals.

Should I avoid animals or animal products imported from China?

CDC does not have any evidence to suggest that animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

Online Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kansas Department of Health and Environment