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How to survive COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)

Coronavirus

Over eighty percent of cases are mild, and most people can be cared for at home instead of in a hospital. Here is some advice about what to do if you have the virus.

Call your doctor

If you have symptoms such as a fever and a cough, call your doctor. Do not walk straight into a medical care facility because you will be putting other people in your community at risk. Instead, ring your doctor and they will advise you on whether you need to be seen by a medical practitioner.

If you are having difficulty breathing, tell your doctor this straight away. Keep in touch with your doctor and phone them again if your symptoms get worse.

Stay home and look after yourself

The most common symptom of COVID-19 is a fever and a cough. Fever is usually the first symptom to appear, affecting 99% of people who have symptomatic disease, and it is a sign that your immune system is fighting the infection. Other symptoms may include mucus in the lungs and shortness of breath. Muscle aches and pains affect around 35% of people and, rarely, some people have gastrointestinal complaints, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, early in the course of the disease. Sneezing is not a common symptom of COVID-19.

While there is currently no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, the following is advised by the CDC:

  • Stay home and do not go to work, school, or visit a public place. Avoid using public transportation, taxis, or ridesharing services
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze with a clean tissue, which is disposed of in the trash after a single-use
  • Isolate yourself from others in your home as much as possible. Stay in a specific room and use a separate bathroom if available. Wear a face mask if you share your house with others and can’t isolate yourself away from them
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds them dry them thoroughly
  • Do not share personal or general items, such as toothbrushes, dishes, towels, or bedding
  • Regularly wipe down all surfaces such as counters, tabletops, banisters, or doorknobs that are touched frequently with a household cleaning spray or bleach
  • Rest up
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids and soups to prevent dehydration
  • Limit contact with pets and animals. Have others look after them while you have symptoms
  • If you feel that your breathing is compromised or you need to seek emergency treatment, call 911 and tell the dispatch officer that you have or may have COVID-19

In addition, you may take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen to make you feel more comfortable. Follow the dosage instructions on the packet and talk to your doctor or pharmacist first if you are already taking other medications.

What percent of cases will be mild, moderate, or severe?

It is important to realize that statistics that have been published reporting case numbers of mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19 are taken from confirmed cases, which means people who have been tested for the disease and found to be positive. These numbers are only a subset of the total number of cases because not everybody is tested for COVID-19. Many people do not develop any symptoms of the disease, and there would be no reason for them to be tested, but it appears they may still transmit the disease to others.

The following are statistics reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control:

  • Mild COVID-19: 80%
  • Severe COVID-19: 14%
  • Critical COVID-19: 6%

The death rate for COVID-19 as estimated by the CDC is:

  • China: 3.5%
  • China, excluding Hubei province: 0.8%
  • The world (82 countries reporting active COVID-19 cases): 4.2%
  • Cruise ship fatalities: 0.6%

The CDC estimates the death rate from COVID-19 to be between 0.25% and 3%. This means for every 1000 people infected with COVID-19, 2.5 to 30 will die.

Certain subgroups of people, such as those over the age of 65 or with a pre-existing medical condition are more likely to suffer from severe disease which may be fatal.

How long is the incubation period?

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine:

  • The median incubation period of COVID-19 is 5.1 days
  • 97.5% of people who develop symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection (the virus that causes COVID-19) will do so within 12 days of exposure

When should I home-isolate?

You should home-isolate for at least 14 days (unless told otherwise or you need medical attention) if the following occurs:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of whether you have symptoms or not
  • Somebody in your social circle or community has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you are in a high-risk group (such as being aged over 65 years, with a compromised immune system, or with heart disease, diabetes, or a lung condition)
  • You have had contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has reasons to suspect they have COVID-19
  • You have returned from an overseas country with active cases of COVID-19

When is it safe to come out of home-isolation?

If you have had COVID-19, according to the CDC, you can stop home-isolation under the following circumstances:

  • You have not taken any fever-lowering medications and have not had a fever for 72 hours AND your other symptoms (such as cough or shortness of breath) have improved AND it has been at least seven days since your symptoms first appeared
  • Or, you have received two negative COVID-19 tests in a row AND you have not taken any fever-lowering medications and you no longer have a fever AND your other symptoms (such as cough or shortness of breath) have improved

For people who had no symptoms of COVID-19 but tested positive, talk to your doctor before you remove yourself from self-isolation.

How can I reduce my risk of catching coronavirus?

There are many ways to reduce your risk of developing COVID-19, here are a few:

  • Avoid close contact with other people. This is called social distancing, and ideally, you should stay at least 6ft (2m) away from other people. Do not hug, kiss, or shake hands
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds then dry them thoroughly. Do this always after going to the bathroom and before eating, and then several more times throughout the day
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Do not share personal or general items, such as toothbrushes, dishes, towels, or bedding
  • Regularly wipe down all surfaces such as counters, tabletops, banisters, or doorknobs that are touched frequently with a household cleaning spray or bleach
  • Work or study from home if possible
  • Avoid public transportation, public places, restaurants, theatres, social venues, gyms, and public bathrooms if possible. If using these facilities is unavoidable, touch as few surfaces as possible or wipe them down thoroughly with alcohol wipes before using
  • If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease that puts you at an increased risk of developing the virus, continue taking your medications as directed by your doctor. Making sure you stay as well as possible means your body is better able to fight the infection
  • Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people
  • Avoid all nonessential travel

Bottom line

COVID-19 is mostly a mild illness but older people and people with heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or a compromised immune system are most at risk of catching severe disease and dying. Stay home if you are unwell, wash your hands frequently, and if you are out and about, always keep at least 6ft (2m) away from other people.

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