Just like the flu, the coronavirus can be within someone and you won’t know it because the symptoms can be so similar.
Common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, present themselves as cold- or flu-like symptoms usually setting in from two days to two weeks after coronavirus infection, and they are typically mild. But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, it can cause bronchitis or pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease, or people with weakened immune systems.
Some of the symptoms of Coronavirus are:
- runny nose
- sore throat
- a general feeling of being unwell
But the flu has these symptoms, too.
While most coronaviruses cause only mild symptoms, similar to those of the common cold, other strains, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), can cause pneumonia and death. SARS, which infected more than 8000 people, was responsible for 774 deaths during an outbreak that began in 2003. MERS, which was first identified in 2012, is even more deadly – around 34 per cent of people infected with the virus die.
Some coronaviruses can cause severe symptoms. The infections may turn into bronchitis and pneumonia, which cause symptoms such as:
- Fever, which may be quite high if you have pneumonia
- Cough with mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness when you breathe and cough
So what happens is that whenever people are around others who have these symptoms, it can be easy to dismiss them as being something less serious. Dismissing the flu symptoms in someone who truly has the flu isn’t life threatening to you (in some cases, although even the flu kills some people each year).
But dismissing coronavirus symptoms can be life threatening. Your best chance of beating this disease is to protect yourself before it gets a chance to harm you.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, and rarely fecal contamination.
How to protect yourself
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid large groups where there may be contaminated people
- If you must go out in public wear a protective mask