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What do I do if I think I was exposed to COVID-19?

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Here’s what to do if you think you may have been exposed to coronavirus.

Some people are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Severe illness means that a person with COVID-19 may need hospitalization, intensive care, a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die. If you are concerned about a potential exposure, here is what you can do.

 

Watch for symptoms

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at increased risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Talk to your health care provider about any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Children can also be infected with, get sick from, and spread the COVID-19 virus. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms (asymptomatic) can still spread the virus to others. Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all. However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19.

You can use the CDC’s self-checker to help make decisions and seek appropriate medical care regarding COVID-19.

 

When to seek emergency medical attention

If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your health care provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility. Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

 

Get tested

If you are concerned about a potential exposure, you should talk to your health care provider and get tested for COVID-19.

Regardless of whether you are unvaccinated or fully vaccinated, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should keep your distance, be evaluated by a health care provider, and get tested. You can find testing locations here.

Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms here and testing here.

 

Talk to your health care provider about potential post-exposure treatments

Treatments used for COVID-19 should be prescribed by a health care provider.

Monoclonal antibody treatments can prevent hospitalization or death in high-risk patients with COVID-19 and are widely available in Florida.

  • Treatment is free and vaccination status does not matter. If you are 12 years and older and are at high risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, you are eligible for this treatment.
    • In clinical trials, monoclonal antibody treatment showed a 70% reduction in hospitalization and death.
    • For high-risk patients who have been exposed to someone with COVID19, Regeneron can give you temporary immunity to decrease your odds of catching the infection by over 80%.
  • There is currently a standing order in Florida signed by the State Surgeon General that allows patients to receive this treatment without a prescription or referral if administered by an eligible health care provider. Such referrals are not required at any of the State of Florida monoclonal antibody treatment sites and treatments are available at no cost to patients.

Click here to find a treatment site.

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab) for post-exposure prophylaxis of COVID-19 in people who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and are:

  • Not fully vaccinated (2 weeks after a person’s final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine) or who are not expected to mount an adequate immune response to complete COVID-19 vaccination (for example, people with immunocompromising conditions including those taking immunosuppressive medications) and
    • Have been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19 consistent with close contact criteria per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or
    • Who are at high risk of exposure to a person infected with COVID-19 because of occurrence of COVID-19 infection in other people in the same institutional setting (for example, nursing homes, prisons, etc.)
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis with REGEN-COV (casirivimab with imdevimab) is not intended to be a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19.
  • REGEN-COV is not authorized for pre-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of COVID-19.

More information can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

Respiratory swabs (nose and throat) are collected by a health care provider and sent to a private laboratory or one of the state public health laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

Many state-run and local testing sites are available throughout Florida.  Some testing sites require an order from a healthcare provider, and for an appointment to be scheduled in advance, though there are a number of sites that will test regardless of symptoms and without an appointment.

To find a testing site near you, click here.

The amount of time it takes to get your test results back varies. For information regarding your test, contact the testing facility that ordered or collected the test. The COVID-19 Call Center cannot provide results, or provide a status update. 

Contact tracing is a disease control measure. Public health professionals work with patients to develop a list of everyone they have been in close contact with during a certain period. The staff will then contact those people to let them know about their possible exposure so that they can take proper precautions.

Contact tracing is done by specially trained public health professionals. In general, these trained staff study patterns and causes of diseases in humans. Public health professionals tasked with contact tracing are experts in protecting client confidentiality, counseling, cultural competency, and more.

When a person tests positive for a disease or condition, a public health case investigator will work with the patient to create a list of people they’ve been in contact with during a given time frame. The contact tracing expert then contacts each of those people so that they can take appropriate precautions (getting tested, self-isolation, monitor for symptoms, etc.) and, in turn, create a list of people they’ve been in contact with as necessary. By using this strategy, public health professionals can get ahead of infectious diseases and prevent further spread.

Many communicable diseases, including COVID-19, can be spread by people who do not appear to be sick. Since these people feel well, they are unlikely to get tested and may not know they are carrying a virus. Contact tracing can help public health officials learn who these asymptomatic carriers are so they can be informed about appropriate prevention measures, to include testing and self-isolation. This helps keep disease at bay.

All public health professionals who conduct contact tracing are highly trained in confidentiality. When they talk to people who have been in contact with a patient, they do not share any information about that person under any circumstance.

For contact tracing to be most effective, it should be carried out as soon after diagnosis as possible. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will likely be contacted quickly by a public health professional to initiate contact tracing. It is important to remember, though, that not being contacted for contact tracing does not mean you did not test positive or that you cannot transmit COVID-19. Proper precautions, such as social distancing, regular hand washing, and wearing a mask, should still be taken.

The Department’s COVID-19 contact tracing fact sheet is a great source of information about how contact tracing works. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides in-depth information about the principles and importance of contact tracing.