Information for the General Public
- In December 2019, a novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in the city of Wuhan, China. At that time, it was reported that the first cases were linked to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan. Since then, the illness it causes has been named COVID-19.
- Initially, the vast majority of cases were in China. Since then, thousands of cases have been identified in multiple other countries, including the United States.
- On January 31, the U.S. declared a national public health emergency to aid our healthcare and public health sectors in responding to the outbreak
- The week of February 23, the CDC reported community spread in California, Oregon, and Washington. Community spread in Washington resulted in the first United States COVID-19 death.
- On March 5, Maryland Department of Health confirmed the first 3 positive COVID-19 cases in Maryland residents and Governor Larry Hogan declared Maryland in a state of emergency to increase Maryland’s coordinated COVID-19 response
- On March 11, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
There are many viruses in the coronavirus family that can cause illness in both humans and animals. Several coronaviruses commonly circulate among people all of the time and cause mild to moderate illnesses like the common cold. Other coronaviruses commonly circulate only in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve to infect people and spread from person to person, as with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012 and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the early 2000s.
Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection include:
- Shortness of breath
Testing is available for those who are severely ill. For further information on testing, call your healthcare provider. Please refer to the Information for Clinicians Page for guidance from the Maryland Department of Health on what constitutes a high risk.
There is no virus-specific treatment for COVID-19 at this time. The CDC suggests supportive care to manage and relieve symptoms.
Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent COVID-19. People can protect themselves and others from the COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by taking the following precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
- Practice good health habits.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot!
The influenza vaccine does not protect against any coronavirus infection, but it can help keep you healthy during the flu season.
Who is at higher risk for getting sick from COVID-19?
Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
- Older adults (60 years old and older)
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Chronic Kidney disease
If you are at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19 (age 60 years or older or with an underlying medical condition) it is extra important for you to take action to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible
- Prepare for a potential local outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. This includes stocking up on supplies, food, and prescription medications.
- When in public, keep away from those who are sick and limit close contact
- Wash your hands often especially after being around public areas and high-touch surfaces in public places (elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with others, etc.)
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel
What to do if you think you have the coronavirus?
If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran or Italy, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact. If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from these areas, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with the Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland Department of Health and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested.
If you do not have a health care provider, please click here for a list of clinics in Baltimore City.