ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
If you or someone in your household is sick with a fever and cough, you may start wondering if you have the coronavirus. And then, what are you supposed to do? NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin went looking for answers.
SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: First of all, don't panic. Remember it's still flu and cold season. Seasonal allergies are starting up, too. If your symptoms are getting dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, call your doctor. If your symptoms are mild, though, the best advice may just be to stay home.
JENNIFER NUZZO: Absolutely stay home until that fever has gone away and the symptoms have abated.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: That's epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Staying home when you're sick is called self-isolating, she explains, which is different from self-quarantine. That's the term used for people who are healthy but have had contact with somebody known to have coronavirus.
Now, Saskia Popescu realizes self-isolate may be boring advice. She's an epidemiologist at HonorHealth, a health system in Phoenix.
SASKIA POPESCU: Because this is such a novel situation, people want a novel approach to handling it. They want a novel way to better isolate themselves or some crazy new hand hygiene technique. And that's just not the case. These are tried-and-true methods. We just need to be really vigilant with them.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: We're talking commonsense stuff for any respiratory illness - avoid going out or on public transit as much as you can. Don't cough on your loved ones. Be especially careful with family members who are older or have underlying health conditions. They're more likely to get very sick from this virus. The CDC's website, coronavirus.gov, has more tips like this. Those guidelines say how long you self-isolate is going to be a case-by-case call. If your kids and your spouse don't seem sick, Nuzzo says, they're probably fine to keep going to school and work. What about getting a coronavirus test? More testing is becoming available, but Popescu says it's still limited.
POPESCU: I've seen a lot of people come in wanting to be tested with nothing that would meet criteria for testing. And I know it's out of fear, which is hard because, you know, you want to give them, you know, that peace of mind.
SIMMONS-DUFFIN: When they leave without a test result, she says, that's frustrating for them and taxing for the health care system. Better, she says, if they had just stayed home.
Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.