How to protect yourself from the COVID-19 coronavirus

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On the same day that the University of Indianapolis announced it would be extending spring break through March 22 and that beginning on March 23, all in-person coursework will move to an online or alternate delivery method until it is deemed safe to resume in-person instruction, the Indiana State Department of Health announced that there are now 10 total presumptive positive cases for the COVID-19 coronavirus in the state.

On March 11, ISDH announced that four more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 have been found in Howard and Johnson counties. Three of the new cases are from Johnson County and one is from Howard County, according to ISDH’s COVID-19 dashboard. There are not any UIndy-associated cases of COVID-19 as of March 11, according to University President Robert Manuel.

Worldwide, there are more than 121,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,300 people have died as of March 11, according to a tracking tool that was developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. In the United States, there are 1,050 confirmed cases, with 29 deaths as of March 11. 66,239 have recovered from COVID-19 worldwide, with 8 of those being from the U.S., according to the tracking tool.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to other, more severe diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization. Coronaviruses are classified as zoonotic, which means that they are transmitted between animals and humans. A new strain that has not been previously identified in humans is called a novel coronavirus (nCoV), which is what COVID-19 is.

Hannah A Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention This is a transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.

How do coronaviruses spread?

Human coronaviruses are most often spread to others through several methods, according to a March 6 press release from ISDH. These methods include respiratory droplets that are released in the air as a result of coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands and touching an object or surface that may have the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands, according to the ISDH press release. Fecal contamination also can also spread the virus, but that is in rare cases.

What can I do to protect myself from respiratory illnesses?

There are several ways to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19 and the flu, according to the ISDH press release. ISDH recommends that you: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

In terms of using a facemask to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, the CDC does not recommend people do that, according to an ISDH press release. People should only be wearing facemasks if it is recommended by a healthcare professional. Facemasks should only be used by people who have or are showing symptoms of COVID-19 to protect others from the risk of infection, according to an ISDH press release.

If I have symptoms, what should I do?

If students, faculty and staff are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, have been in close contact with a someone known to have COVID-19 or if you live in, or have recently traveled, from an area with that is dealing with the spread of COVID-19, they should isolate themselves and contact a healthcare professional or the UIndy Health & Wellness Center at (317) 788-3437, according to UIndy’s coronavirus web portal

ISDH also recommends that if you experience those symptoms, have been in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19, or have recently traveled to China to call the ISDH Epidemiology Resource Center at (317) 233-7125 or the after-hours number at (317) 233-1325, according to ISDH’s COVID-19 web portal. People can also contact the resource center via email at

Indiana University Health has also launched a virtual clinic to offer Indiana residents free COVID-19 screenings as part of their telemedicine app, IU Health Virtual Visit, according to The Indianapolis Star. The virtual clinic is staffed 24/7 with physicians, advance practice providers and registered nurses from IU Health and users can use the app regardless of their age, according to an IU Health press release. 

The virtual clinic is designed to screen patients from their homes, which in turn, will eliminate the need for them to visit doctor’s offices, urgent care centers or emergency rooms, according to the IU Health press release. In order to access the clinic, Indiana residents can download the IU Health Virtual Visits app for free on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. After downloading the app, residents can enroll by creating a login and completing a personal profile, according to the IU Health press release. Residents can also enroll with their computers online at

On the app, residents should select the “Coronavirus Screen” tab to find their appropriate pathway to care, according to the IU Health press release. Residents who downloaded the app will need to allow access to their device’s camera and microphone and those who accessed it on their computer will need to check their computer’s settings to use the virtual clinic.

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