Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Image



  • In December 2019, Chinese health officials announced they were investigating a pneumonia outbreak of unknown causes in the city of Wuhan in central China. They reported that a number of cases were linked to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan. After further investigation, health officials reported that the outbreak was caused by a novel coronavirus. The illness it causes has been named COVID-19.
  • The vast majority of COVID-19 cases are occurring in China, where the virus continues to spread. However, additional cases have been identified in multiple other countries, including the United States. Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from China, but the virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the U.S. For the general American public, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low at this time.  
  • On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global public health emergency. On January 31, 2020 the U.S. declared a national public health emergency to aid our healthcare and public health sectors in responding to the outbreak.

About coronaviruses

  • 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:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath


  • Currently, all testing for COVID-19 must be conducted at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Local laboratories do not have the ability to test for this particular virus (though they are able to test for the other, more common coronaviruses that circulate in people all the time).


  • 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.

Guidance for people with recent travel to areas impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. Additionally, the US Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory asking people to not travel to China due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The travel recommendation and advisory are only for mainland China and do not apply to Hong Kong, Macau, or the island of Taiwan.

CDC guidance for travelers from other parts of China (outside of Hubei Province) in the past 14 days includes:

  • If you have a fever, cough, or trouble breathing: CDC staff at the airport will evaluate you for illness. You will be taken to a medical facility for further evaluation and care. You may not be able to complete your travel itinerary.
  • If you do not have symptoms: You will be allowed to reach your final destination. After arrival at your final destination, you will be asked to monitor your health for a period of 14 days from the time you left China. You will receive a health information card that tells you what symptoms to look for and what to do if you develop symptoms. During that time, you should stay home and limit interactions with others as much as possible. Your state or local health department will contact you for further follow-up.

Guidance for travelers from the Hubei Province and other resources for returning travelers are available on the CDC Information for Travelers website​.  

What is the Baltimore City Health Department doing to protect the community?

  • Baltimore City Health Department is working in collaboration with other Baltimore City and Maryland State Agencies, as well as healthcare partners to prepare for possible cases in Baltimore.
  • Reviewing and updating our plans and protocols for responding to infectious disease outbreaks.
  • Providing information to the public about protecting yourself from coronavirus.     

Links and Resources 

Information for Clinicians

CDC Criteria for a Person Under Investigation for Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Clinical Features


Epidemiologic Risk

Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing)


In the last 14 days before symptom onset, a history of travel from Hubei Province, China.

Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing)


In the last 14 days, close contact with an ill laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patient (this includes health care workers)

Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or difficulty breathing) requiring hospitalization.


A history of travel from mainland China within 14 days of symptom onset.

Note: these criteria are intended to serve as guidance for evaluation. Patients should be evaluated and discussed with public health departments on a case-by-case basis if their clinical presentation or exposure history is equivocal (e.g., uncertain travel or exposure).

Refer to the CDC website for updated guidance on the evaluation of a Person Under Investigation (PUI) for novel coronavirus:

How to Report a Person Under Investigation (PUI):

Healthcare providers reporting a possible person under investigation (PUI) for the 2019 novel coronavirus can call the Baltimore City Health Department.

  • During normal business hours, Monday through Friday: call (410) 396-4436
  • After business hours, including weekends and holidays: call the Baltimore City Operator at (410) 396-3100

Links and Resources