Anytime a new virus strikes, especially one as dangerous as COVID-19, there are typically more questions than answers.
But despite staying home and increasing hand washing, people can still get sick. What should someone do if a member of the household develops a fever and cough? Can the remaining healthy individuals go to work or the grocery store or should all life stop within a household if someone shows signs of COVID-19?
"If someone in the house shows signs of illness, they should social distance from their family as much as possible by remaining in a separate room and using their own bathroom, wearing a mask and staying home," said Daniel Smith, MD, a board-certified Franciscan Physician Network infectious disease specialist. While it is hard to practice social distancing while living in the same house, Dr. Smith explains a cough or sneeze can travel approximately 6 feet, which is why it is important to maintain distance from someone showing signs of illness. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a fever over 99.6°F, cough, diarrhea and loss of smell and taste.
If a member of a household becomes sick, Dr. Smith says the best practice for everyone in the household is to stay home for 14 days and keep track of any symptoms they experience. He also says anytime another member of the household begins showing signs of illness, they should assume it's COVID-19 and begin isolating themselves too.
"If a healthy family member must go to work or buy groceries for their family, they need to take extra precautions by checking their temperature before leaving the house, wearing a mask while out and washing their hands with soap and water before leaving home."
Because COVID-19 testing isn't widely available, most healthy individuals with mild symptoms will not be tested at this time. In the future he says these individuals can undergo an antibody test to determine whether or not it was COVID-19. This future antibody test will also be helpful for other members of the household too, as it may show they had it, but were asymptomatic.
"This type of test is important because it will show if someone has immunity," Dr. Smith said.
"Currently, testing is mostly reserved for individuals over age 65 or those with compromised health conditions. Those individuals with symptoms should contact their doctor to request a test," said Dr. Smith. "Likewise, if anyone begins to develop severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, they should head to the emergency department and will likely be tested."
By Liza Sargent