Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19 with Risk factors
Coronavirus is a term that refers to a large family of viruses that can cause various respiratory illnesses, ranging from mild to severe. The name comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown, because of the spike-like projections on the surface of the virus particles.
The first coronavirus was discovered in the 1960s, and since then, several types of coronaviruses have been identified, such as:
- Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)
- Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
- Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63)
- Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1)
Most coronaviruses infect animals, such as bats, camels, and birds, but some can also infect humans and cause outbreaks of disease. For example, SARS-CoV caused a global epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, and MERS-CoV caused a series of outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) since 2012.
In late 2019, a new type of coronavirus emerged in China and caused a pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This virus is officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and it is genetically related to SARS-CoV but distinct from it.
SARS-CoV-2 can infect people of all ages and cause mild to moderate symptoms in most cases. However, some people may develop severe complications, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock, organ failure, or death. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or cancer, are more likely to have serious outcomes from COVID-19.
The main mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is through respiratory droplets or aerosols that are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or breathes. These droplets or aerosols can be inhaled by or come into contact with the mucous membranes of another person who is in close proximity (within 1 meter) to the infected person. The virus can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, although this is less common.
The incubation period of COVID-19, which is the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms, is estimated to be between 1 and 14 days, with a median of about 5 days. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Some people may also experience headache, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or skin rashes. Some people may have no symptoms at all or only very mild symptoms. The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the infection and the immune status of the individual.
There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. The main strategies to prevent and control the spread of the disease are:
- Practicing good hygiene measures, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Wearing a properly fitted mask that covers the nose and mouth when in public settings where physical distancing is not possible
- Maintaining at least 1 meter distance from others who are not from the same household
- Avoiding crowded places and poorly ventilated spaces
- Staying home and isolating oneself if feeling unwell or having any symptoms of COVID-19
- Seeking medical attention if having difficulty breathing or other signs of severe illness
- Getting vaccinated when it is available and following local guidance on vaccination
COVID-19 is a global health emergency that has affected millions of people worldwide and caused significant social and economic impacts. It is important to stay informed and follow the advice of health authorities to protect oneself and others from this disease.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus that can affect different people in different ways. Some people may have no symptoms at all, while others may experience mild to severe symptoms that require medical attention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Fever: This is a rise in body temperature above the normal range, usually around 37°C (98.6°F). Fever is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Fever may be accompanied by chills, sweating, headache, and muscle ache.
- Dry cough: This is a cough that does not produce any mucus or phlegm. Dry cough can be irritating and painful for the throat and chest. Dry cough may also cause shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
- Fatigue: This is a feeling of tiredness, weakness, or lack of energy that does not go away with rest. Fatigue can affect the ability to perform daily activities and may also affect mood and mental health.
- Loss of taste or smell: This is a partial or complete loss of the ability to taste or smell things. This can affect the appetite and enjoyment of food and drinks. Loss of taste or smell may also indicate damage to the nerves that are involved in these senses.
These symptoms usually appear within 5 to 6 days after exposure to the virus, but sometimes up to 14 days. The symptoms may vary in intensity and duration depending on the individual and the severity of the infection. Most people with mild symptoms recover within 2 weeks, while those with severe symptoms may need hospitalization and intensive care.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should stay at home and isolate yourself from others. You should also contact your health care provider or local health authority for advice on testing and treatment. If you have difficulty breathing or other signs of a serious condition, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Less common symptoms of COVID-19
While most people with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, some may develop less common symptoms that can vary in severity and duration. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these less common symptoms include:
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Loss of taste or smell
- Skin rash or discoloration of fingers or toes
Some of these symptoms may be caused by other factors, such as allergies, medication side effects, or underlying conditions. Therefore, it is important to consult a health care provider if you have any of these symptoms and suspect you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Some studies have also reported other unusual symptoms of COVID-19, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Delirium or confusion
- Chickenpox-like lesions
- Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
- Phlegm-producing cough
These symptoms may indicate a more severe infection or a complication of COVID-19, such as pneumonia, blood clots, or organ damage. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person and may change over time. Some people may have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic), while others may have severe and life-threatening symptoms. The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and follow the public health measures in your area. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself from others and get tested as soon as possible.
COVID-19, flu, and cold are all contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), flu is caused by influenza viruses, and cold is caused by various viruses, such as rhinovirus or adenovirus.
You cannot tell the difference between COVID-19, flu, and cold by the symptoms alone because they have some of the same signs and symptoms. However, there are some key differences that may help you distinguish them.
|Fever or feeling feverish/having chills||Common||Common||Rare|
|Cough||Common (usually dry)||Common (usually dry)||Mild to moderate (usually with mucus)|
|Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing||Common (can be severe)||Sometimes (can be severe)||Rare|
|Runny or stuffy nose||Sometimes||Sometimes||Common|
|Muscle pain or body aches||Common||Common||Mild|
|Vomiting or diarrhea||Sometimes (more frequent in children)||Sometimes (more frequent in children)||Rare|
|Change in or loss of taste or smell||Common (can persist for weeks or months)||Rare||Rare|
Source: Adapted from
Another difference is how long it takes for symptoms to appear after exposure and infection. For COVID-19, it can take 2 to 14 days, with an average of 5 days. For flu, it can take 1 to 4 days, with an average of 2 days. For cold, it can take 1 to 3 days .
The best way to confirm if you have COVID-19, flu, or cold is to get tested by a medical professional. There are specific tests that can detect each virus and help you get the appropriate treatment and care. Testing can also help prevent the spread of the virus to others.
If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, flu, or cold, you should stay home and avoid contact with others. You should also wear a mask, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands frequently, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. If you have trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, or persistent fever, you should seek medical attention immediately.
While anyone can get infected with COVID-19 and develop symptoms, some people are more likely than others to get very sick or die from the disease. According to the CDC, some of the factors that affect the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes include:
- Age: Older adults (especially those ages 50 years and older, with risk increasing with older age) are more likely than younger people to get very sick if they get COVID-19. This means they are more likely to need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they could die. Most COVID-19 deaths occur in people older than 65. A study by Verity et al. estimated that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 increased from 0.32% in those aged below 60 years to 6.4% in those aged ≥60 years and 13.4% in those aged more than 80 years.
- Immunocompromised or a weakened immune system: Having a weakened immune system, also known as being immunocompromised, can make you more likely to get very sick if you get COVID-19. People who are immunocompromised, or who are taking medicines that weaken their immune system, may not be protected as well as others, even if they are up to date on their vaccines. For this reason, it is important to have a COVID-19 plan to protect yourself from infection and prepare for what to do if you get sick.
- Underlying health conditions: Certain underlying health conditions you have (for example, obesity or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) may affect your risk of becoming very sick if you get COVID-19. Often, the more health conditions you have, the higher your risk. Certain conditions increase your risk more than others. For example, severe heart disease increases your risk more than high blood pressure. A meta-analysis by Guo et al. found that patients with pre-existing diseases (cancer surgery, cirrhosis, hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease) had a higher risk of death from COVID-19 than those without.
Other factors that may influence the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes include the condition of a particular area (such as the level of virus transmission or the availability of healthcare resources), the vaccination status of the individual and their contacts, and the genetic or biological factors that may affect the immune response or susceptibility to infection.
Knowing your risk factors and taking preventive measures can help you reduce the chances of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19. If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your healthcare provider about how to protect yourself and what to do if you get sick.
One of the main factors that affects the risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19 is age. Older adults (especially those aged 50 years and older) are more likely than younger people to develop severe complications, need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they could die . Most COVID-19 deaths occur in people older than 65.
The risk increases with age. For example, a case fatality rate of 0.32% is seen in those aged below 60 years and 6.4% in those aged ≥60 years. The rate is as high as 13.4% in those aged more than 80 years. The disease tends to progress faster in older adults, with the duration from the occurrence of the first symptoms to death shorter among people aged 65 years or more. The elderly male with comorbidities and ARDS usually show a higher death risk.
There are several possible reasons why older adults are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Some of them are:
- Older adults have weaker immune systems that make it harder for them to fight off infections.
- Older adults often have chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, etc.) that can worsen the effects of COVID-19 or increase the risk of complications .
- Older adults may have reduced lung capacity or elasticity that can affect their ability to breathe well.
- Older adults may have less social support or access to health care services that can help them prevent or treat COVID-19.
Therefore, it is important for older adults to take extra precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19. Some of the recommended measures are:
- Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19.
- Wearing a mask that fits well and covers the nose and mouth when around people who don’t live with you or who are not fully vaccinated.
- Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Washing hands often with soap and water or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Keeping a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others who don’t live with you or who are not fully vaccinated.
- Seeking medical attention early if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.
People with certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. This means that they may have a higher risk of hospitalization, intensive care, mechanical ventilation, or death. Some of the underlying conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 are:
- Diabetes with complications
- Anxiety disorders
- Disorders of lipid metabolism
- Chronic lung diseases
- Heart diseases
- Liver diseases
- Kidney diseases
The list above is not exhaustive and may change as new evidence emerges. If you have any of these conditions, or any other condition that affects your health, you should talk to your healthcare provider about how to protect yourself from COVID-19. You should also stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and follow preventive measures such as wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands frequently.
The risk of severe COVID-19 increases with the number of underlying conditions a person has. For example, a person with obesity and diabetes has a higher risk than a person with only obesity. The risk also increases with age, as older adults are more likely to have underlying conditions and more severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Some people may have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of where they live or work, or because they have limited access to health care. This includes many people from racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities. These groups may also face more barriers to getting vaccinated and receiving treatment for COVID-19.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. You may be eligible for treatment that can reduce your risk of severe illness or death. Treatment is most effective when started within the first few days of symptoms.
The risk of COVID-19 infection mainly depends on the condition of a particular area. The people in areas heavily contaminated with the virus, more specifically in areas where there is a COVID-19 outbreak unfolding, are at a higher risk than others. This is because they are more likely to encounter respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus from infected people, or touch surfaces or objects (fomites) that are contaminated with the virus.
However, the risk of fomite-mediated transmission is generally considered to be low compared with direct contact, droplet transmission, or airborne transmission. This is because the virus that causes COVID-19 is an enveloped virus that can degrade quickly upon contact with cleaning agents and environmental factors. There have been few reports of COVID-19 cases potentially attributed to fomite transmission. Moreover, using soap or detergent, rather than disinfectant, is sufficient to reduce the risk of fomite transmission in most cases.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 from untreated wastewater (also referred to as “sewage”) is also very low. There is no evidence that anyone has become sick with COVID-19 because of direct exposure to treated or untreated wastewater. However, genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in untreated wastewater, which could indicate the level of infection in a community.
The risk of COVID-19 infection may vary depending on the population density and the health care system of an area. A small number of COVID-19 cases in densely populated cities can spread rapidly causing large outbreaks. This can quickly overwhelm the health care system, even in large cities. This is what happened in New York City, causing cases to spread across the northeastern U.S.. On the other hand, rural areas may have lower population density and less contact with infected people, but they may also have more vulnerable populations and less access to health care resources. This can make rural areas more susceptible to severe outcomes and death from COVID-19.
Therefore, it is important to follow the prevention measures recommended by public health authorities, such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing hands frequently, and getting vaccinated when eligible, regardless of the level of contamination in an area. These measures can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission for everyone.
Medical officials and caregivers are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because they are in close contact with infected patients and may be exposed to respiratory droplets, aerosols, or contaminated surfaces. According to the CDC, among health care workers (HCWs), nurses are at a significant risk of COVID-19 infection, accounting for 36% of hospitalized cases. A study from China also reported that 3.8% of HCWs were infected with COVID-19, and 14.8% of them developed severe or critical illness.
Some of the risk factors for severe COVID-19 among HCWs include lack of or inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), exposure to high viral load, work overload, poor infection control practices, and pre-existing medical conditions . A systematic review found that HCWs who did not use PPE or used it improperly had a higher risk of COVID-19 infection than those who used it correctly. Moreover, HCWs who worked in intensive care units, emergency departments, or respiratory wards had a higher risk of COVID-19 infection than those who worked in other departments.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 among HCWs, it is essential to provide them with adequate and appropriate PPE, train them on how to use it correctly, implement strict infection control measures, monitor their health status regularly, and support their mental and physical well-being . HCWs who have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated and treated promptly. HCWs who have been exposed to COVID-19 should be tested and quarantined as per the CDC guidelines.
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic with serious health and economic consequences. The symptoms of COVID-19 vary from mild to severe, and some people may not show any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include headache, sore throat, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell. It is important to seek medical attention if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or persistent fever.
The risk of developing severe complications or dying from COVID-19 depends on several factors, such as age, underlying health conditions, exposure to the virus, and access to health care. Older adults, especially those over 80 years old, are more likely to have severe outcomes than younger people. People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or cancer, are also at higher risk of developing serious complications. Moreover, people who live or work in areas with high levels of transmission or who are in close contact with infected patients are more likely to get infected and spread the virus.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus and follow the public health measures recommended by the authorities. These include wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, washing hands frequently, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and getting vaccinated when eligible. By following these steps, we can protect ourselves and others from this deadly disease and help end the pandemic.
Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19
In addition to getting vaccinated, you should also follow these general prevention measures:
- Wear a well-fitted mask that covers your nose and mouth when you are around people who do not live with you, especially in indoor settings where ventilation may be poor.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow, and dispose of used tissues in a lined trash can.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects daily using a regular household detergent and water.
- Monitor your health and watch for symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel sick, stay home and isolate yourself from others. Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, or other signs of severe illness.
If you have COVID-19 and are more likely to get very sick from the disease, treatments are available that can reduce your chances of being hospitalized or dying from the infection. These treatments must be prescribed by a health care provider and started as soon as possible after diagnosis, preferably within 5 days of when symptoms start. Contact a health care provider right away to determine if you are eligible for treatment, even if your symptoms are mild right now.
The treatments that are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who are more likely to get very sick include :
|Nirmatrelvir with Ritonavir (Paxlovid)||Antiviral||Adults; children ages 12 years and older||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start||Taken at home by mouth (orally)|
|Molnupiravir (Lagevrio)||Antiviral||Adults; children ages 12 years and older||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start||Taken at home by mouth (orally)|
|Sotrovimab (Xevudy)||Monoclonal antibody||Adults; children ages 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kg (88 lbs)||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 10 days of when symptoms start||Given by intravenous infusion or injection|
|Casirivimab plus Imdevimab (REGEN-COV)||Monoclonal antibody||Adults; children ages 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kg (88 lbs)||Start as soon as possible; must begin within 10 days of when symptoms start||Given by intravenous infusion or injection|
These treatments work by targeting specific parts of the virus to stop it from multiplying in the body, helping to prevent severe illness and death. They are not interchangeable and should not be used together. A health care provider will help decide which treatment, if any, is right for you.
Other medications can help reduce symptoms and help you manage your illness. These include over-the-counter pain relievers, fever reducers, cough suppressants, decongestants, antihistamines, and fluids. However, these medications do not treat the virus itself or prevent complications. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist if you are taking other medications to make sure they can be safely taken together.
If you have severe COVID-19 or are hospitalized with COVID-19, different treatments may be used depending on your condition and the availability of resources. These include antiviral drugs (e.g., remdesivir), corticosteroids (e.g., dexamethasone), anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., tocilizumab), blood thinners (e.g., heparin), and oxygen therapy. You should discuss the benefits and risks of these treatments with your health care provider.
Remember, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and follow the general prevention measures. If you have COVID-19, seek treatment as soon as possible and follow the instructions of your health care provider. Together, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
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