Health Advice

Doctors are learning new things about this virus every day. So far, we know that COVID-19 may not initially cause any symptoms for some people.

You may carry the virus for 2 days or up to 2 weeks before you notice symptoms.

Some common symptoms that have been specifically linked to COVID-19 include:
  • shortness of breath
  • a cough that gets more severe over time
  • a low-grade fever that gradually increases in temperature
  • fatigue
Less common symptoms include:
  • chills
  • repeated shaking with chills
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • muscle aches and pains
  • loss of taste
  • loss of smell
These symptoms may become more severe in some people. Call emergency medical services if you or someone you care for have any of the following symptoms:
  • trouble breathing
  • blue lips or face
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • confusion
  • excessive drowsiness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still investigating the full list of symptoms.

COVID-19 versus the flu
We’re still learning about whether the 2019 coronavirus is more or less deadly than the seasonal flu.

This is difficult to determine because the number of total cases, including mild cases in people who don’t seek treatment or get tested, is unknown.

However, early evidence suggests that this coronavirus causes more deaths than the seasonal flu.

An estimated 0.04 to 0.2 percent of people who developed the flu during the 2019–2020 flu season in the United States died as of April 4, 2020.

This is compared to about 6 percent of those with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the CDC.

Here are some common symptoms of the flu:

  • cough
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • chills
  • body aches
In early 2020, a new virus began generating headlines all over the world because of the unprecedented speed of its transmission.

Its origins have been traced to a food market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. From there, it’s reached countries as distant as the United States and the Philippines.

The virus (officially named SARS-CoV-2) has been responsible for millions of infections globally, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. The United States is the country most affected.

The disease caused by an infection with SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

In spite of the global panic in the news about this virus, you’re unlikely to contract SARS-CoV-2 unless you’ve been in contact with someone who has a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

  • To reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19, public health experts recommend staying 6 feet away from people outside your “bubble,” but experts say that isn’t always enough.
  • The 6-foot rule dates back to the late 1800s, when a German scientist found that pathogens were present in large droplets expelled from the nose and mouth.
  • However, wind and weather can affect how droplets travel. If the humidity is low, bigger droplets can shrink and stay in the air longer.
Wherever you go in public these days, signs, barricades, and stickers remind you to stay at least 6 feet away from other people in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

This is physical distancing, also known as social distancing, and is a key public health tool for ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, says Lydia Bourouiba, PhD, director of the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT, the 6-foot rule is based on outdated science.

She and her colleagues write in a new paper published Tuesday in the medical journal BMJ that there are many situations where 6 feet isn’t enough to keep your risk low.

The 6-foot rule dates back to the late 1800s, when German scientist Carl Flügge found that pathogens were present in large droplets expelled from the nose and mouth. Most of these droplets fell to the ground within 3 to 6 feet of the person with an infection.

In the 1940s, advances in photography enabled researchers to capture images of these expiratory droplets being sprayed when a person sneezed, coughed, or talked.

Other studies around that time found that large particles quickly fell to the ground near the person expelling them, reinforcing the 6-foot rule — in spite of limitations of the accuracy of these early studies.

These studies tended to group expiratory droplets into two categories: large and small. Scientists thought large droplets would fall quickly to the ground and small droplets would evaporate before they got very far, unless pushed by another airflow.

However, “in the last 90 years, we’ve learned a lot more about what is actually going on … when you speak or cough or sneeze,” said Jesse Capecelatro, PhD, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

He says many factors can affect how far droplets are spread. If the humidity is low, bigger droplets can shrink and stay in the air longer. Wind outside or ventilation inside can also carry droplets farther away.

“This whole idea that there’s this 6-foot perimeter, and if you’re one inch beyond it then you’re safe, really doesn’t make much sense,” said Capecelatro.

In a recent systematic review, 8 of 10 studies reviewed found that expiratory droplets could travel more than 6 feet away from those with infections, and in some cases up to 26 feet.

Research with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 supports the idea that 6 feet may not always be enough. In one study, researchers found the transmission distance of the virus may be up to 13 feet. In another, they detected it on multiple air vents in a patient’s room.

There is also the case of the choir practice in Washington state in March, where one person with COVID-19 symptoms transmitted the virus to at least 32 other singers. The forcefulness of the exhalation while singing is thought to have helped the virus spread, but other factors such as sharing snacks may have been involved.

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