Symptoms and Diagnosis of Coronaviruses

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Symptoms
Common human coronaviruses

Common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include

runny nose
headache
cough
sore throat
fever
a general feeling of being unwell

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.

Other human coronaviruses

Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to frequently cause severe symptoms. MERS symptoms usually include fever, cough, and shortness of breath which often progress to pneumonia. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. MERS cases continue to occur, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula. SARS symptoms often included fever, chills, and body aches which usually progressed to pneumonia. No human cases of SARS have been reported anywhere in the world since 2004.

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider may order laboratory tests on respiratory specimens and serum (part of your blood) to detect human coronaviruses. Laboratory testing is more likely to be used if you have severe disease or are suspected of having MERS.

If you are experiencing symptoms, you should tell your healthcare provider about any recent travel or contact with animals. Most MERS-CoV infections have been reported from countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore reporting a travel history or contact with camels or camel products is very important when trying to diagnose MERS.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

Researchers are still learning precisely how the new virus spreads from person to person.

“While we do not know all of the mechanisms of spread of the epidemic so far, there is likely spread by droplets and contaminated surfaces, and possible airborne [spread], similar to SARS,” Dr. Mark Denison, a virologist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said.

Coronaviruses in general are spread through close contact — a range of about 3 to 6 feet. The virus is primarily spread through a sick person coughing or sneezing on someone, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, a health officer in Washington state.

A person could also become infected through contact with the virus particles on a surface, though it’s unknown how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces outside of the body. If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface, such as a countertop or doorknob, and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick.

The SARS virus was also spread through feces. Denison suggested the same spreading mechanism may be found in the new virus, but it’s too early to know for sure.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

Researchers are still learning precisely how the new virus spreads from person to person.

“While we do not know all of the mechanisms of spread of the epidemic so far, there is likely spread by droplets and contaminated surfaces, and possible airborne [spread], similar to SARS,” Dr. Mark Denison, a virologist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said.

Coronaviruses in general are spread through close contact — a range of about 3 to 6 feet. The virus is primarily spread through a sick person coughing or sneezing on someone, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, a health officer in Washington state.

A person could also become infected through contact with the virus particles on a surface, though it’s unknown how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces outside of the body. If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface, such as a countertop or doorknob, and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick.

The SARS virus was also spread through feces. Denison suggested the same spreading mechanism may be found in the new virus, but it’s too early to know for sure.

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