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Johns Hopkins Prepares for 2019 Novel Coronavirus: Ask the Expert

Dr. Brian Garibaldi

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Johns Hopkins is preparing in the event the need arises to treat a patient who has the virus. Respiratory disease specialist Brian Garibaldi, who directs the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit (BCU), explains how Johns Hopkins Medicine is responding to this new illness.

What is Johns Hopkins Medicine doing to prepare for a possible outbreak of COVID-19?

Teams throughout the Johns Hopkins Health System are focusing on caring for patients. We are prepared to identify, isolate and inform our state health department about any potential cases of COVID-19. Our health system has set up appropriate screenings at all entry points, and we are providing guidance to our staff members on how to deal with the possibility of COVID-19 cases.

All our affiliated hospitals are preparing to provide care for patients with COVID-19 using current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our health system infection prevention team. We also stand ready as a resource to our state and regional partners to provide assistance to care for patients with confirmed COVID-19 who might require a higher level of care.

Does Johns Hopkins have a special facility to handle patients with COVID-19?

Based on the current information available, patients diagnosed with COVID-19 should be cared for in a designated isolated area away from other patients using infection control practices outlined by the CDC. We have several areas in the hospital that can safely provide care for patients with respiratory viral diseases.

One area, the Johns Hopkins BCU, is the only one like it in the Mid-Atlantic region, and it is equipped to isolate and treat patients during an outbreak of a contagious virus. Such units are not necessary to care for patients with COVID-19; however, the BCU’s capabilities make it a great resource for isolating patients when necessary.

Teams of Johns Hopkins specialists in infectious disease, critical care, emergency medicine and public health work at the same location here in Baltimore. Many Johns Hopkins doctors and staff members work with colleagues at the CDC, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, as well as our local health department. We can confer with one another to make the best use of new information about COVID-19, clarify confusion among the public and help patients.

What happens if someone with COVID-19 is sent to our hospital?

Samples would be collected in the patient room and then sent to be tested.

There is no approved vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Patients will receive supportive care, as they would for other respiratory viral illnesses. Experimental therapies may become available as we learn more about the new virus.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Before going to your health care provider’s office or the emergency room, please call them immediately to let them know if you were in China in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone who has traveled to China, and have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Your health care provider or the emergency room team will recommend next steps. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and let them know about your symptoms and recent travel to China.


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