Hundreds of thousands of cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States. With so many people contracting it, there have been lots of questions on what happens when a person is infected with the virus and how long the symptoms will be present.
COVID-19’s impact on life can cause anxiety and be overwhelming, but most cases are not classified as life-threatening. A recent study from JAMA looked at 44,415 COVID-19 patients from China. 81% of cases were mild, 14% severe and 5% critical.
Even with those numbers, this is not a virus you want to be infected with. It can be fatal, especially with the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Below are the symptoms, how long they typically last, and what you can do to not infect others if you are infected.
3. Symptoms of the Coronavirus
It is important to remember that this coronavirus, the COVID-19, is novel. There is still a lot to learn about this strand of virus.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently only lists three symptoms for the COVID-19
- Shortness of Breath
But, a joint report from the World Health Organization and China lists the following symptoms:
- Dry Cough
- Sore Throat
- Shortness of Breath
- Sputum (Phlem) Production
- Muscle Pain
If you show signs of any of the symptoms, the CDC recommends staying home and self-isolating. If you become worse, call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the hospital. This will help contain the virus if you are infected.
2. How Long Do Symptoms Last?
Typically symptoms of COVID-19 have shown up anywhere between two to 14 days after you become infected. After you are infected, the duration of the symptoms depends on the severity of the infection.
If you have a mild case, which most people are experiencing, the CDC states you will have the symptoms for a couple of days and feel better after a week or two.
“Many people have symptoms for two weeks—some longer and others a shorter duration,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an associate professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University and infectious disease physician.
If you have a severe case of the novel coronavirus, and develop complications such as pneumonia, you will more than likely have a longer duration of symptoms. “More severely ill patients are being seen to need care and continue to have symptoms such as shortness of breath for six weeks or more,” said David Cennimo, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and an infectious disease expert.
1. How Long Are You Contagious?
This is something that is unknown because the virus is novel. Doctors are not sure at this point in time. Some patients have been “shedding (giving off) the virus up to four weeks, but it is unclear if that means they are still contagious,” states Dr. Waktins.
The reason that this data is not available is due to the shortages of tests. Doctors do not want to test people who are known to have the virus already. Doctors would rather use the tests to identify new cases during the test shortage. “no one wants to use that many tests on one person in this shortage.” says Dr. Waktins.
It would seem that a patient’s virus count would lower as their symptoms lessen, but that not always true because most children have minimal symptoms, but they have high viral loads.
The CDC has adopted the following guidelines on when to end self-isolation:
- If you do not have access to a test to determine if you are still contagious:
- No fever for three fulls days without using fever-reducing medicine AND
- Other symptoms have improved AND
- It has been seven days since you first felt sick
- If you are tested to determine if you are contagious, you can leave home after:
- No Fever without using fever-reducing medicine AND
- Symptoms have improved AND
- Two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
If you are unsure, call a doctor right away for medical advice.Related: COVID-19 Worldwide Tracker