As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the news is coming at a fast and furious pace. But don’t let the volume send you into a panic about your health and that of your loved ones.

“The mantra is, ‘Keep calm and carry on,’” said Dr. Marguerite Neill, an infectious disease expert at Brown University.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak and its symptoms.

Common symptoms of this infection include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. The illness causes lung lesions and pneumonia. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common.

Patients may also exhibit gastrointestinal problems or diarrhea, and Dr. Neill said we are learning about different symptoms as we go. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

In some cases, people who had appeared stable rapidly deteriorated in the second week; anyone infected needs careful monitoring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the following symptoms — if you are otherwise healthy — should prompt you to seek emergency treatment.

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • Confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

  • Any other symptom that is severe or concerning

If you think you’re sick as a result of the novel coronavirus, you can first help safeguard your loved ones and your community by staying home, except to get medical care.

The current C.D.C. guidance recommends that you call a medical professional if you notice symptoms and

  • Live in or have traveled to an area with a known coronavirus outbreak


  • Have had close contact with someone who has traveled to an area with an outbreak


  • Have had close contact with anyone infected.

Don’t rush to the emergency room — it is most likely packed with very sick people and overworked employees and doctors.

When you call your doctor, he or she will advise whether you should come in. If you do, calling ahead of time will help the doctor prepare for your visit and prevent the spread of the virus to other people in the office. Be sure to wear a mask when you go to the doctor’s office and when you’re around other people. If you cannot find a mask, you can create a makeshift one from a scarf or a T-shirt.

The C.D.C. also suggests that you avoid public transportation, ride-sharing services and taxis, and that you separate yourself from other people and animals in your home as soon as possible. That means not letting anyone enter your room and, ideally, not sharing bathrooms. Others should stay more than three feet away from you and avoid any surface you might have coughed on or touched, including doorknobs, plates, cups and towels. Disinfect the environment as much as possible.

Coronavirus patients with pneumonia may also need oxygen and a ventilator if breathing trouble worsens. Some patients who appear to be doing well have a “crash” in the second week of illness.

An experimental vaccine for the coronavirus may be ready for testing in humans within a few months. But even if it is approved, it will take much longer, at least a year, before it is available for widespread use. In the meantime, experts are urging people and their children to get a flu shot.

This virus can be deadly. There’s a reason government officials and medical experts across the world are issuing strong warnings.

About 80 percent of victims will recover without any need for hospitalization. Still, the cases categorized as “mild” by the Chinese C.D.C. included those with “mild pneumonia,” meaning there is fluid in the lungs but not enough to require supplemental oxygen or intensive care. The other categories are “severe,” which means oxygen or ventilation is required, and “critical,” which means lung or organ failure.

It is important to keep these distinctions in mind, both to avoid unnecessary panic and to get a clear picture of the likelihood of transmission.

Unlike other, more mild coronaviruses, this one causes many deaths.

It is unclear how many completely symptom-free cases there are, because some people test positive a day or two before developing symptoms. The World Health Organization believes that only about 1 percent of people with the virus never develop a fever or any other symptoms.

We understand. The coronavirus has drastically shifted so much about our lives this year. Take a look at The Times’s special section on frequently asked questions and advice. We have answers to common questions on health, money, daily life, politics, science and travel.



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