Officially named COVID-19, a novel coronavirus disease has been sweeping across the globe and shutting down everything from professional sports seasons to entire countries.
As of Friday, there were more than 140,000 confirmed cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 1,200 cases and more than 30 deaths in the United States.
Public health officials have said the situation will only get worse before it gets better.
“I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told members of Congress on Wednesday, according to an MSN report.
Whether COVID-19 has hit your community already or may be on the way, read on for everything you need to know about the symptoms and when to see the doctor.
What are the symptoms of this coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
Harvard Health Publishing, a division of Harvard Medical School, also lists the following as common symptoms:
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Some people with COVID-19 have no symptoms. But in severe cases, the illness can cause pneumonia, severe respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. And even without symptoms, an infected person can transmit COVID-19 to someone more vulnerable.
Do symptoms of this coronavirus worsen over time?
They can, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Just as with the flu, coronavirus symptoms can progress from mild to life-threatening in some cases.
Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, who treated the first U.S. case of COVID-19, told CNBC that her patient’s condition began to worsen on day nine of the illness.
At that time, the person developed pneumonia and shifted from cold-like symptoms to shortness of breath and a cough. He was given supplemental oxygen, received an experimental antiviral treatment and has since recovered.
How long does it take for coronavirus symptoms to appear?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, but that is based on the incubation period seen in past cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a related viral respiratory illness.
Recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that the median incubation period for COVID-19 is 5.1 days.
Who is most at risk for severe symptoms of the coronavirus?
Older adults and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes seem to be most at risk, according to the CDC.
The agency also says there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to the disease, and most infected children have mild symptoms such as a runny nose, fever and cough.
When should you see a doctor about possible coronavirus symptoms?
The Mayo Clinic recommends contacting your doctor immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms and have possibly been exposed to the disease.
Meanwhile, the CDC suggests monitoring symptoms at home and contacting your physician if they worsen. However, the CDC says to seek immediate medical care if you have “emergency warning signs” such as the following:
- Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
- Persistent pain/pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Both the CDC and WHO recommend staying home if you feel unwell and contacting your doctor by phone for guidance before heading to a clinic. Be sure to let your physician know if you have traveled internationally in recent months or have had contact with a traveler.
Mild cases may resolve on their own without treatment, but call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
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