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The fight to contain the coronavirus has entered a new phase as a California patient is believed to be the first U.S. case from “unknown exposure.”

The virus, called COVID-19, has spread across the globe into at least 47 countries, with 14 confirmed cases so far in the United States.

If you’re a cancer patient, what do you need to know about the virus to protect yourself?

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that belongs to the coronavirus family. The virus can be spread through person-to-person contact when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic, typically early in the illness. 

Moffitt Cancer Center is preparing for an uptick in COVID-19 by remaining alert to all updates provided by the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control.

“We are reviewing our policy on influx of infectious patients and reviewing current personal protective equipment supplies,” said Stacy Martin, manager of the Infection Prevention and Control Department at Moffitt. “We have also implemented a patient questionnaire screening process to identify anyone with signs and symptoms of respiratory illness and applicable travel or COVID-19 contact history.”

Symptoms of the virus include, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, patients can experience pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. In some cases, patients have been asymptomatic or have shown no symptoms. 

Since there is currently no treatment for COVID-19, you can protect yourself by:

  • Avoiding contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness
  • Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoiding touching your nose, eyes or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects
  • Staying home when sick

There are masks in Moffitt lobbies and Moffitt encourages the proper use for patients and visitors with signs of respiratory illness. The goal of the masks is to minimize the transmission of all respiratory viruses, including the flu.

Learn more: Protecting Against Coronavirus Disease 19