Photo: Guido Mieth/Getty Images
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and dry cough, according to a report from the World Health Organization.
WHO looked at 55,924 cases of the virus confirmed by laboratories and found 87.9 percent had a fever or a dry cough (67.7 percent), or both.
Less common symptoms were fatigue (38.1 percent), coughing up phlegm (33.4 percent), shortness of breath (18.6 percent), sore throat (13.9 percent), headache (13.6 percent), joint pain (14.8 percent), chills (11.4 percent), nausea or vomiting (5 percent), nasal congestion (4.8 percent), diarrhea (3.7 percent), coughing up of blood (.9 percent) and eye discharge (0.8 percent).
“Fever and cough was observed in almost all COVID-19 patients described in the literature,” Jan Carette, associate professor of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, explained in an email. “Only very few cases had prominent upper-respiratory tract signs and symptoms (eg, runny nose or sneezing). This means that the virus likely hangs out more in the lower airway rather than the upper airway.”
Dr. Maria Raven, chief of emergency medicine at UC San Francisco, explained that an upper-respiratory infection is what’s often referred to as a head cold, and COVID-19 is “what we call lower respiratory, so more from the lung than from the head.”
All of that said, Raven added COVID-19 can’t be diagnosed only by observing symptoms, and anyone who is sick and has any of the potential symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for an assessment. “We’re being very conservative here, because there have been cases that have been missed,” Raven said. “I don’t know if we’re missing the cases because they’re presented with symptoms that aren’t obvious. We want to make sure we don’t miss anybody.”
The WHO analysis also revealed that most people develop symptoms on average of five to six days after infection, though the range is anywhere from one to 14 days.
Coronaviruses are among a group of viruses that cause the common cold, and there are seven known viruses of the type that can infect humans. Four of these (229E, HKU1, OC43 and NL63) are seasonal and typically cause mild respiratory infection — fever, cough, nasal congestion, and headache — according to Dr. Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine and infectious disease at UC San Francisco.
“The remaining three coronaviruses (MERS, SARS, COVID-19) are the result of recent zoonotic (animal-to-human) transmission events and although they are also associated with mild respiratory symptoms, infection can progress to cause severe, life-threatening pneumonia,” Chiu shared in an email.
COVID-19 is the most recently discovered coronavirus and was unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December. To date, a vaccination or antiviral medication isn’t available to treat it, according to the WHO. People with serious illness should be hospitalized.
The virus has infected more than 100,000 people around the globe.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE: