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What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a virus belonging to the Coronavirus family known as SARS-CoV-2 or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. Since it first emerged in December 2019, COVID-19 has caused millions of deaths around the world.

Spread of COVID-19

The virus spreads through tiny droplets released in the air when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, talks or breathes. These droplets may linger in the air or accumulate in crowded places that have poor ventilation. The virus remains viable for up to 72 hours depending on the type of surface it settles on. A person may get infected when touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, mouth, or ears without first cleaning their hands.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 begin to appear within 2-14 days of exposure to the virus. The severity of symptoms may depend on the overall health and age of the individual. Some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The elderly and those with medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes are at risk of developing severe symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • High fever
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion
  • Reduced consciousness
  • Neurological complications such as delirium or stroke.

Diagnosis of COVID-19

Diagnosis of COVID-19 may be made based on the laboratory tests which can be classified as:

  • Viral Tests: These tests are performed on secretions obtained from the nasal cavity (nasopharyngeal swab) or oral cavity (pharyngeal swab), or a sample of sputum. They detect the presence of genetic material or special proteins (antigens) on the surface of the virus.
  • Antibody Tests: These tests are performed on a blood sample obtained from a vein in your arm. The tests detect the presence of specific antibodies produced by your immune system in response to the COVID-19 infection. It takes about 12 days after exposure to the virus for enough antibodies to be produced to give a positive result.

Who Should be Tested for COVID-19?

Testing for COVID-19 may be recommended for:

  • Those with symptoms suspicious for COVID-19
  • Those who have had close contact with a person infected with COVID-19
  • Those who have been scheduled to undergo a medical procedure
  • Those who are at a high risk for serious illness due to pre-existing medical conditions

Management of COVID-19

Management of COVID-19 is focused on relieving symptoms. For mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend:

  • Pain medication (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
  • Cough medication or syrup
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing self-isolation

If symptoms worsen or you develop symptoms of pneumonia such as labored breathing, high fever, and severe cough; hospital admission and options such as antiviral medication, antibody medication, supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation, and corticosteroids may be considered.