Coronavirus pandemic: Everything you need to know about symptoms based on what experts have reported so far
Experts have a lot to learn about the new coronavirus but they do have a good handle on one feature: the symptoms of the disease it causes. While coughing, fever, and breathing difficulties are quite common, some patients lose their sense of smell and experience digestive trouble.
"We are emphasizing fever plus a notable lower respiratory tract symptom -- cough or trouble breathing," an infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told CNN.
Once the virus enters the body, COVID-19 symptoms take about 2-14 days to set in, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to these symptoms, people with mild disease suffer from pneumonia. The virus can hit some people severely, causing them to rely on a breathing tube or a ventilator to pump oxygen into their bodies. Some get critical as their lungs and multiple other organs cease to function, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is common to have a temperature of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit and above. One study conducted in Wuhan found that almost 49% of patients come to the hospital with a fever and 89% of hospitalized patients had a fever. Another study from China found that 99% of people developed a fever.
What is more, the body temperatures fluctuate throughout the day. "Our temperature is not the same during the day. If you take it at eight o'clock in the morning, it may be normal. One of the most common presentations of fever is that your temperature goes up in the late afternoon and early evening -- it's a common way that viruses produce fever," Schaffner told CNN.
However, some patients do not develop fever, say experts. Additionally, COVID-19 patients often tend to experience fatigue and muscle pain.
Infected patients tend to have a dry cough. Describing the cough, Schaffner explained, "The cough is bothersome, it's coming from your breastbone or sternum and you can tell that your bronchial tubes are inflamed or irritated."
Two studies found that more than half of the patients had a dry cough.
Breathing trouble and blue face
The new coronavirus can strike the lungs and cause breathing trouble. This is the third most common symptom to watch out for.
According to the WHO, about one in six people become seriously ill “and develop difficulty breathing”.
"If there's any shortness of breath immediately call your health care provider, local urgent care or the emergency department," American Medical Association president Dr. Patrice Harris, told CNN.
When the lungs take a beating, patients can see their face and lips turning blue. This signals that the body is not receiving enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen leads to confusion and the inability to stay awake.
Chinese experts have noted that digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite are rare.
However, another study found that digestive symptoms are pretty common. They also add that those experiencing digestive symptoms suffer more than those free of them.
The scientists urge doctors to consider testing patients with digestive problems even if they do not have a fever or cough. "Clinicians should recognize that digestive
symptoms, such as diarrhea, maybe a presenting feature of COVID-19. However, further large sample studies are needed to confirm these findings," they wrote.
Loss of smell
One epidemiologist took to twitter to talk about his unusual symptoms: loss of smell and visual disturbance. "So I was confirmed #COVID19 positive- I had mild symptoms of fever and cough but also more unusual ones like a complete loss of smell (disconcerting) and visual disturbance," he tweeted.
An Italian doctor added that loss of smell and taste is common among patients in his country.
Another doctor made a similar observation in Germany. “Almost all infected people we interviewed, and this applies to a good two thirds, described a loss of smell and taste lasting several days. It goes so far that a mother could not smell the full diaper of her child. Others could no longer smell their shampoo, and food began to taste bland," a virologist named Hendrik Streeck told Frankfurter Allgemeine.