People infected with COVID-19 can still be contagious even when they stop feeling sick, so precautionary measures should continue for at least 2 weeks after symptoms disappear and until the COVID-19 test result is negative. Ideally, patients should be quarantined at home or an institution for 2 weeks after the symptoms completely disappear. How contagious a person is may vary, but there is no test to accurately determine how contagious a person could be or if one person is more contagious than another. If one is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is advised to visit a doctor who can advise an appropriate treatment plan based on the condition of the patient. Some may only face mild symptoms, while others experience major problems, hospitalization, and life-threatening complications. The best is to adhere to preventive measures, which will help reduce the risk of getting infected because COVID-19 is a relatively new disease. Many aspects of the disease are still not completely understood and being researched.
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Some common symptoms that may occur in COVID-19 include (researchers would continue to update this list as more discoveries are made about COVID-19):
- Throat pain
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
- Runny nose
- Nose block
- Nausea or vomiting
- Inflammation of the eye
- Skin rashes
- Discoloration of fingers or toes
The following warning signs require emergency medical care:
Who is at risk?
Anyone can be at risk of contracting the disease if exposed but certain factors increase the risk of serious illness and complications (but this is not a rule as healthy, low-risk individuals have also experienced severe illness and serious complications):
- Elderly people
- Pregnant women
- Heart diseases, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart)
- Lung diseases, such as chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema
- Chronic kidney disease
- Blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease
- Weakened immune system due to medication like steroids and medications for HIV, diabetes, or other illnesses
- Liver disease
- Brain and nervous system conditions
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
What are the complications of COVID-19?
Complications can include:
- Fluid in lungs
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (severe lung condition that causes a low amount of oxygen supply to the body tissues)
- Failure of other organ systems
- Heart failure
- Blood clots in the blood vessels
- Acute kidney damage
- Cytokine storm (severe reaction of the body to the virus)
- Superadded viral and bacterial infections
How is COVID-19 caused?
The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, breathes, sings, or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth, nose, or eyes of a person nearby; this is called droplet transmission. The virus may also stay in the air for several minutes or hours; this is called airborne transmission. The virus may also spread if a person touches a surface or object contaminated with the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes. Less commonly, reinfections with the virus may also occur. The risk of spread is when there is close contact (within 6 feet, or 2 meters) with a COVID-19 patient or being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person.
How to prevent COVID-19?
There is no vaccine available to prevent COVID-19 at present, but there is ongoing research. The following measures can reduce the risk of infection:
- Avoiding close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone who is sick, has symptoms, or if their health status is not known.
- Maintaining the social distance between oneself and others (about 6 feet).
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wearing a face mask, with or without a face shield in public spaces. Surgical masks may be used if available. N95 makes may be used by healthcare providers, high-risk individuals, or in crowded places (for example, during flight travel).
- Covering the mouth and nose with the elbow or tissue while coughing or sneezing. The used tissues should be discarded properly, and hands should be washed or sanitized right away.
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth without washing or sanitizing.
- Avoiding sharing food, dishes, glasses, towels, bedding, and other household items with anyone who might be sick or friends and family whose health/exposure status is unknown.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, switches, electronics, and counters, regularly.
- Staying home from work, school, public transportation, taxis, and other public areas if one is sick. To get medical care, it is advised to drive if possible or call for an ambulance.
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CDC. Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html