There are various types of virus that can cause infections in the respiratory tract of humans. For example, the common cold is caused by the rhinovirus. Another virus is known as coronavirus. Human coronavirus can cause common cold-like symptoms.

Novel coronavirus

While there are several strains of coronavirus, the current outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, is considered a “novel” coronavirus. That means it is not typical because it was transmitted from non-human animals to humans, and now it is being transmitted from human to human.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of this novel coronavirus are different than those associated with the human coronavirus. By the time people seek medical treatment, a vast majority of them have a cough and fever, and some patients experience shortness of breath typically associated with pneumonia.

Symptoms we normally attribute to the common cold, such as runny nose and sore throat, appear to be less common symptoms of this novel coronavirus.


There is still widespread influenza in many parts of the US, so don’t forget general precautions you should take to reduce your risk of a respiratory viral infection such as:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • When sneezing or coughing, do so into a tissue and wash your hands immediately, or into your sleeve.
  • Stay home if you are showing symptoms of a respiratory illness.

What should you do?

Anyone experiencing a fever or respiratory symptoms should NOT come unannounced to an emergency department, urgent care, or outpatient medical office. We ask that you contact your primary provider or the Rhode Island Department of Health's screening line at 401-222-8022. You will be counseled on whether, when, and where to be evaluated.

Lifespan’s response

In light of local cases of COVID-19 and national and international instances of exponential spread of the disease, Lifespan hospitals are further expanding measures to minimize traffic and potential exposure in our hospitals, protecting patients and staff. Effective March 9, no visitors will be allowed in adult units at our Lifespan hospitals. Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Bradley Hospital will have modified policies to allow for accompaniment by one parent. Newport Hospital maternity services will allow for a birthing partner only. You can find the details of this policy here, as it will be updated as necessary.

Our novel coronavirus response team also put various interventions in place at our hospitals and facilities to reduce the risk of transmission. Those include:

  • hand hygiene products
  • facial tissues
  • masks for someone coming in with respiratory viral symptoms and directions to notify staff of their symptoms and travel history upon arriving at the hospital

Learn more about Novel Coronavirus 2019 and Lifespan's response.

We will continue to monitor the situation and do everything we can to prevent the spread to our patients, visitors and staff.


Leonard Mermel, DO

Leonard A. Mermel, DO

Dr. Leonard Mermel is an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of the department of epidemiology and infection control at Lifespan.