Effective Monday, March 23, our physicians are seeing all patients via telemedicine; patients who need medical care can contact us to schedule a telemedicine visit. Please use the patient portal, call us at 919-816-4948 (option #3), or fill out an appointment request form online.

Also, because we are a part of the UNC Health Alliance, we are partnered with them to provide patients access to organized medical triage via the UNC COVID-19 Healthline. Should you suspect exposure or if you currently have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please call the Healthline first, at (888) 850-2684, and you will be triaged and directed as to next steps.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

First identified in Wuhan, China, the new coronavirus is a novel coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The novel coronavirus outbreak has been named coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and they are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

How COVID-19 Spreads

While the first infections were linked to a live animal market, the virus is now spreading from person-to-person between those in close contact with one another (within about six feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

Since those actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those patients be isolated until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. Much is still unknown about COVID-19, including whether weather and temperature impact its spread.

Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and no treatment specifically approved for COVID-19, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms as the virus runs its course. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends taking these steps to protect yourself and others:

  • Clean your hands often
    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, but if that is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact
    In addition to avoiding close contact with people who are sick, put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.
  • Stay home if you’re sick
    Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow, then immediately wash your hands.
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick

    This only applies to people who are sick when around other people; if you are not sick, a facemask is not necessary unless you are caring for someone who is sick.

  • Clean and disinfect
    For frequently touched surfaces, clean and disinfect them daily, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, keyboards, and sinks.

As noted above, should you suspect exposure or if you currently have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please call the Healthline first at (888) 850-2684, and you will be triaged and directed as to next steps.

Specific Guidance for IBD Patients

As part of a joint GI Society statement, it is recommended that patients on immunosuppressive drugs for IBD and autoimmune hepatitis continue taking their medications. The risk of disease flare outweighs the chance of contracting coronavirus. These patients should also follow CDC guidelines for at-risk groups by avoiding crowds and limiting travel.

Additional guidance for IBD patients on medications, travel, and more, related to COVID-19, is available in this resource from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.

Resources to Stay Up-to-Date on the COVID-19 Outbreak