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The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 News

Get factual, timely information on COVID-19 and updates on our preparation, response, and steps you can take to prevent its spread.

Stay Informed

What you should know ...

Experts from UTSW have provided the following information for our patients and the public with the appropriate context to understand how COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 compares to other communicable infectious diseases, specifically respiratory virus infections. The emergence of this novel coronavirus coincides with our flu and respiratory virus season, complicating the diagnosis, although our approach and prevention measures are similar.

This is a dynamic situation changing daily with new scientific data that leads to improved diagnosis and tailored prevention strategies. Because the situation is so dynamic, there is an ongoing need for caution. The medical community has a lot of experience with other coronaviruses, which is helping ensure that we make decisions to protect our patients, health care workers, and community in accordance with the most current guidelines and recommendations from public health authorities.

About COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)

What is COVID-19 and where did it originate?

First identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, COVID-19 is a new disease, or novel coronavirus, that has not previously been seen in humans. The first infections have been traced to a live animal market, and COVID-19 is believed to have been originated in bats. 

There are multiple types of coronaviruses that spread from animals to humans, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the name that has been given to the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). 

Covid-19 Transmission Graphic
Creators: Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus is now spreading from human-to-human by respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, usually within 6 feet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that these patients be isolated in either a hospital or home environment (depending on illness severity) until they are better and are no longer at risk of infecting others.

To a lesser extent, COVID-19 can be spread from touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching one’s face. 

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A dry cough, sore throat, and fever are among some of the initial symptoms of COVID-19.

UTSW Infectious Diseases and Infection Prevention and Control Expertise

UT Southwestern has a talented cadre of infection preventionists and infectious diseases physicians who are advising and leading efforts at our institution and on our campus and to keep patients informed, educated, and safe.

UT Southwestern William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital and its affiliated clinics and medical campuses across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex routinely handle potential infectious diseases cases, and our caregivers are well trained in the use of appropriate precautions to help avoid unnecessary or public exposure while providing the highest standard of care.

Commonly Asked Questions:

What are the symptoms?

  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

Symptoms typically appear within 2 to 14 days after infection. According to CDC, if you develop any of the following symptoms – trouble breathing; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion or inability to arouse; bluish lips or face – seek medical attention immediately.

Is there a vaccine to prevent COVID-19?

There are no preventive vaccines or specific antiviral treatments for this new virus. Because treatment is limited, prevention is a key strategy to address the outbreak.

Should I wear a facemask?

The CDC does not necessarily recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Facemasks should only be utilized by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for employees at all of our health care facilities and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

If you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, please call your doctor or local health department.

What is the difference between flu and COVID-19?

Both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, including fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Both viruses can cause a range of diseases from mild to severe, and are at times fatal, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions. Seasonal influenza can be treated with antivirals, such as Tamiflu, in conjunction with additional supportive care. There is currently no treatment for COVID-19, but there are clinical trials under way.  

What is UT Southwestern doing to protect patients, visitors, and employees?

UT Southwestern has implemented safety measures across all of its facilities to protect patients, visitors, and staff from COVID-19 and reduce the risk of transmission. Some of the precautions include:

  • Limiting visitors to one per patient (please bring only one caregiver with you)
  • Designated entry points to hospitals and clinics
  • Screening for infection risk of all patients, visitors, employees, and guests
  • Temperature checks via forehead thermometer scans will be required of all staff, faculty, patients, and visitors before they enter William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, Zale Lipshy Pavilion, and Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center Anyone who registers a reading of 99.6°F/37.6°C or higher will not be allowed in the buildings, and screening staff will provide advice on next steps
  • Surgical masks will be worn by all employees in hospitals and ambulatory clinics
  • Free self-parking; we are leaving the gates up. Some valet options remain, with specific safety measures, at select facilities
  • The roll-out of a virtual care platform gives patients and providers the option of rescheduling in-person appointments to video visits.
  • We are also contacting patients to help them reschedule nonessential appointments and elective procedures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Lather Up

Protect Yourself: Wash Your Hands

It’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community – from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals. 

Follow these 5 steps, every time:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

In addition:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Staying at home when you are sick
  • Getting your influenza vaccine

Our Response to COVID-19

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COVID-19 Response Fund

You can contribute to the fight against COVID-19 from your home. Donations will go to research, support of front-line providers, and patient assistance.

Donate Now

UTSW Screening Procedures for Infection Prevention

At UT Southwestern Hospital and Clinics, our patient intake process involves immediately identifying those who have potential respiratory or other infectious diseases and providing masks and isolation for further screening. 

If you are admitted, all patient rooms at UTSW Clements University Hospital are private rooms, limiting exposure to other patients. Masks are available to all to further limit exposure and protect others. Please just ask for one at check-in. 

These intake coordinators also are trained to ask an initial round of questions about recent travel to areas where infections have been common, people you may have associated with who may have infections, and the time frames of when symptoms developed. 

Infection preventionists and/or infectious diseases specialists may ask additional questions to help further guide the potential infectious diagnoses and to order the appropriate tests. 

The screening protocol used at UT Southwestern has been developed using the national expertise available on our specialty-trained infectious diseases faculty in accordance with recommendations from the CDC and Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS). This screening process helps ensure potential cases receive the best diagnostic and medical care as well as protect all patients. 

How is COVID-19 tested? 

Currently, testing can be performed through the CDC, state and/or local health departments, and other commercial labs such as LabCorp or Quest. Multiple academic medical centers and commercial labs are in various stages of developing their own test kits for COVID-19.  

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

The CDC has developed criteria for a Person Under Investigation (PUI). These criteria include:

  • Travel to certain geographic regions
  • Exposure to other individuals who may have confirmed infection with COVID-19
  • Severity of the illness at time of evaluation

Individuals who have mild symptoms and have traveled to a region where transmission has been noted can still be considered for testing with guidance from your physician. 

Blood and respiratory samples may be taken for testing of a variety of conditions including flu at UT Southwestern labs. If warranted, samples may be sent to the CDC, which has developed a test that can detect SARS-CoV-2.

The CDC does not recommend testing asymptomatic patients. The value of testing asymptomatic patients is unknown at this time.

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Recovered COVID-19 Patients May Donate Plasma

The FDA recently approved emergency use of COVID-19 "convalescent" plasma, which is collected from people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 so it may be used to help stimulate a stronger immune response in critically ill patients fighting the virus.

Learn more about donating