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Protect Yourself From Coronavirus

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Military Health System has released important information regarding COVID-19, a viral respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.

The World Health Organization has declared the continuing spread of the virus a global pandemic, and the military has taken several steps to try to protect the force, including restricting almost all domestic and international travel and canceling large exercises and events.

Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know to protect yourself and those around you.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus spreads through close contact between people and by droplets from coughs or sneezes. It also spreads when a person touches a surface with the virus on it, and then touches his or her nose, mouth or eyes.

Who has an increased risk for COVID-19?

People at higher risk include adults who are 65 or older and people with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and immune disorders.

What symptoms should you look for?

Symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Some people may show symptoms two to 14 days after exposure. Children have the same cold-like symptoms, such as fever and cough, and severe symptoms are uncommon.

What should you do if you show symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19?

If you are sick, show symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, stay home. Speak with a registered nurse or office staff member by phone or email first so they can assess your symptoms and advise you on what to do. This is to protect you, other patients and medical staff from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.

Here are some options: 

  • Call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line number at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1.
  • Call your military or civilian care clinic directly. If you are enrolled at a military hospital or clinic, the appointment line staff can submit a telephone consult to your primary care clinic nurse if you ask for one.
  • Send your primary care physician a secure online message.

If you start having emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical care quickly. Call your provider or local clinic or hospital. If your breathing or chest pains are severe, call 911 and tell the emergency operator that you may have COVID-19.

When should you seek medical care?

You should go to a clinic or hospital only if you are advised to go, have difficulty breathing, or have flu-like symptoms that aren’t getting better with time—but always call first. As mentioned above, the nurse or office staff will assess your symptoms. 

Who should get tested?

Only people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested. That decision is made by a health care provider and based on exposure risk, symptoms and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

If you have a civilian provider, Tricare will cover the costs of the test if your provider determines it's medically appropriate and the request meets the screening criteria.

How is COVID-19 treated if I am diagnosed?

Most people can recover from COVID-19 at home. Treatment is similar for that of the flu with rest and fluids. There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 for adults or children. 

What are some everyday safety measures that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or being in a public place.
  • Use tissues when coughing or sneezing, then throw away tissues and wash your hands. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face—especially eyes, nose and mouth—as much as possible.
  • Avoid being close to others who are ill or showing symptoms. Greet people verbally instead of shaking hands or hugging.
  • Limit touching frequently touched surfaces in public, such as doors, elevator buttons, handrails and menus.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs, especially frequently touched surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles and cellphones.
  • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, take extra steps to distance yourself from other people. Think about ways of getting food to your home; for example, have family, or social and commercial services, drop off groceries.
  • Get a flu shot if you haven’t already. The flu vaccine won’t protect you from COVID-19, but the flu currently poses a greater threat to the public than COVID-19.
  • Avoid public activities and large crowds.
  • Get the pneumonia vaccine if you’re eligible. It’s recommended for adults 65 and older, all children younger than 2 years, people with certain health conditions who are between the ages of 2–64, and adults ages 19–64 who smoke cigarettes.

Do not wear a face mask in public if you aren’t sick. A mask helps prevent an ill person from spreading the virus but will not protect a healthy person from being exposed to it.

How should I prepare for possible quarantine?

Families should develop a household plan based on daily needs and routines. Check your food and supplies; make care arrangements for children, elders and pets; and make sure you have enough critical prescription drugs. Public health officials may recommend actions if there is a local community outbreak. They will likely take actions that limit exposure, such as canceling large gatherings.

Where can I find more information?

The Military Health System and Tricare will provide regularly updated COVID-19 information online. For more information, visit the CDC’s website.