Like many coronaviruses, the one that emerged in 2019 spreads through droplets from exhaled breath, coughs or sneezes. People who are infected may not show symptoms for four to five days. During this time, they can still spread the disease to other people.
Without any precautions, the likelihood of contracting the novel coronavirus is very high. For example, in some regions of Italy, one infected person would infect, on average, 10 others, often before realizing they were sick.
Early symptoms include fever, dry cough, fatigue, body aches, loss of smell and sore throat.
Early Stages of Infection
The early symptoms continue, and progress to include more severe symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain as the disease attacks your lungs and heart. Those with very severe symptoms may need to be hospitalized.
Later Stages of Infection
Severe cases of COVID-19 may lead to confusion, inability to stay awake, severe breathing difficulties, blue lips and comas. People reaching this level of severity are in mortal danger. Too many severe cases can overwhelm medical facilities.
Over 2.4 million people had died from COVID-19 by February 2021. When the condition is extremely severe, recovery is still possible, but there are many documented cases of lasting health issues.
Condition Potentially Fatal
Most people who contract COVID-19 make a full recovery, but the recovery period can take months.
One of the earliest and best precautions to take is hand-washing. Using soap or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol kills germs and reduces accidental contamination.
Because signs and symptoms don't appear right away, it's important for people to get tested regularly. Policies that facilitate rigorous and accessible testing are necessary to track and fight the spread of COVID-19.
Face masks catch particles that are exhaled or coughed out, which reduces the disease's spread. It is important for medical workers to have personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks when working with infected people.
The coronavirus doesn't survive long outside of a host's body. Maintaining at least 2 meters (6 feet) of distance between people reduces the chances of infection.
Shelter in Place
If everyone in a region stays at home for a few weeks, keeping the virus away from new hosts, they will "flatten the curve," or slow the rise of new cases. If someone becomes infected, they can infect others in their household.