Coronavirus: How to identify symptoms and avoid infections

Coronavirus: How to identify symptoms and avoid infections

The coronavirus is spreading fast – it’s already broken out in Italy and taken the lives of 2.000 people in China, and a few in Europe too! The virus has also officially reached Germany, with 27 reported cases so far. 

So, how can you tell if you’ve got it? And if you have it, what should you do?

Coronavirus symptoms

People infected with the COVID-19 virus often experience symptoms similar to those of the flu: fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include muscle pain, confusion, headache and a sore throat. 

It’s not necessarily the case that you’ll feel extremely sick if you have contracted the virus. In known cases of the virus, only 17 percent of those infected experienced severe to extremely severe symptoms. In two percent of all cases, the virus was deadly.

The majority of those succumbing to the virus are the elderly or those who have compromised immune systems because of other illnesses. There have been, however, a few young, healthy fatalities. 

What to do if you think you have coronavirus

If you think you have been infected with the coronavirus – you have the above-mentioned symptoms and you have been in an area to which the virus has spread, or have been in contact with an infected individual – you should immediately get in touch with your family doctor. Do not go to the emergency room at your local hospital as you risk passing the infection on to others.

Your doctor will then, based on an individual interview and assessment of your symptoms, determine the measures to be taken.

If you haven’t got any symptoms, there is no point in getting yourself tested for the coronavirus, as without symptoms, the test can’t establish whether you have the virus. However, irrespective of symptoms, if you have travelled to an infected region, or been in contact with an infected individual, you should still contact your local health office.

How is coronavirus spread and how can you avoid getting it?

Coronavirus is spread from person to person via particles that are released when one coughs and sneezes. To date, it seems as though it is mostly passed on by those who show (severe) symptoms. There are only a few cases of asymptomatic infections.

There are a few things you can do to avoid getting coronavirus. According to the German Federal Centre for Health Education (BGA), these measures are no different than those for preventing the spread of flu.

Make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap, and cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow or use tissues. If you are sick, stay home. Also, make sure you avoid people who are coughing. At this moment in time, there is no official treatment for the virus and a vaccine has not yet been developed. Both treatment and a vaccine are being worked on.

Can face masks stop you from getting coronavirus?

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, demand for face masks has soared, with shops and online retailers selling out all over the world. According to Reuters, demand for surgical face masks in China has reached a cumulative 200 million masks a day. 

Nonetheless, there is very little evidence that masks have any benefit. Dr Jake Dunning, from Public Health England says that "Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective."

Most of the paper masks on sale do not contain the crucial element - a respirator which can filter out infectious air particles. Moreover, most are ill-fitting, meaning that bacteria can easily access the nose and mouth. If worn for prolonged periods of time, they become loose. There is also some suggestion that coronavirus can enter the body through the eyes, rendering the mask entirely ineffective. 

Good old hand washing is therefore the best way to protect yourself. 

This article originally appeared on IamExpat in the Netherlands.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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