COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and which is often commonly referred to by the general term coronavirus, is a respiratory infection that appeared in late 2019, and has currently spread to most countries. This is intended to be a short, practical, and fact-checked reference for general use, but I am not a doctor.
- Fever, usually no higher than 103 f., 39.4 c.
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Dry cough
- Or, none at all.
Other symptoms may be present, but are not clearly indicative of COVID-19. These may include sore throat, aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, or diarrhea, but the absence of these symptoms should not be taken as evidence of absence of COVID-19.
Currently, it appears that COVID-19 can easily be spread through asymptomatic or lightly symptomatic people. This includes children, who do carry the disease but do not tend to have much of a problem with it. COVID-19 produces a high viral load in the nose, mouth, lungs, and feces, and can spread with no more coughing, sneezing, etc. than one experiences in a normal, healthy day.
You cannot reliably prevent spread, but you can reduce risk by washing your hands, using hand sanitizer when not able to wash hands, and sanitizing surfaces that are touched frequently (door handles, washroom fixings). Masks are potentially effective, but probably not worth doing unless you are willing to put some research into their proper use.
Mostly this just sounds like the flu, and it may feel like the flu, but it has a higher mortality rate than the flu among those 30 and older, with the rate rising quickly with every decade of age. Among the infirm or elderly it can be especially fatal. If you are in an area at risk for COVID-19 (e.g., all of America and the UK), you should take extreme measures to avoid contact with elderly and medically at-risk people. This is sometimes termed social isolation or self-isolation.
Symptoms that indicate an escalation to pneumonia and multi-organ failure include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
- Confusion or inability to arouse.
- Bluish lips or face.
CDC, March 15th, 2020
Any time you or a loved one has trouble breathing, contact a doctor immediately.
While it is good to protect children from disease, remember that kids are not the at-risk population here. Those most at risk are:
The average time from exposure to showing symptoms is 6 days (but may range from 2-14 days; link). You may be highly contagious during this time without knowing it. Once you show symptoms, you are probably safe to come out of self-isolation after 8-10 days (link).
France's Health Minister has issued a warning that NSAIDS -- aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, etc. -- should not be taken to control fever, as they may increase the risk of respiratory distress (link). However, it has not been confirmed that this is a risk in the current outbreak.