Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline is 866-779-6121

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The new coronavirus is rapidly spreading around the world and in the U.S., which has many people asking themselves basic questions about what to do if they start to feel sick.

Experts say if you start experiencing symptoms that could indicate novel coronavirus, than stay home.

The virus causes mild symptoms in about eight out of 10 people. That means people who don’t think they are very sick could end up spreading the disease to others who are far more likely to develop severe symptoms, like the elderly and people with compromising health conditions.

If you do think you need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, don’t.  Pick up the phone and call your healthcare provider so he or she can take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

You can also call the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline and follow their advice.

The number is 866-779-6121.

It is only operational on weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to midnight. You can also email: COVID-19@flhealth.gov

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, talk to CBS4’s Jim DeFede during a taping of Facing South Florida on March 6, 2020. (CBS4)

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) spoke to CBS4’s Jim DeFede Friday during a taping of Facing South Florida.

“Dr. Marty is the one who brought to my attention the need for a hotline so that people who were presenting symptoms could make a phone call before going to the doctor to make sure they needed to go to their doctor so that they aren’t infecting anyone else and don’t overwhelm our health system,” said Mucarsel-Powell. “I’m concerned about the lack of health clinics, lack of doctors and nurses, we already have a shortage here in Florida of medical doctors and nurses.”

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Some hospitals are now using virtual visits to address patient concerns and to prevent infected patients from entering the ER.

The coronavirus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties.

In severe cases, there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs against the flu do not work.

Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

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