Coronavirus 101: Symptoms, when to self-isolate, when to contact officials

Injy Deif , Thursday 2 Apr 2020

Symptoms of coronavirus vary in intensity from one person to another. Health ministry guidelines indicate when and how to self-quarantine, and when quarantine alone is insufficient

A man walks on the beach front in Nice, as a lockdown is imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, April 2, 2020. (photo: Reuters)

As COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, spreads around the world, each country has published its own guidelines on when to self-quarantine and when to contact health professionals.

In Egypt, contacting health professionals is either by calling the official hotline (105), or heading directly to hospitals dedicated to receive suspected coronavirus cases.

Official guidelines published by the Ministry of Health in Egypt with regard to symptoms of coronavirus and when to act are as follows:

Symptoms of coronavirus vary in intensity from one person to another, but generally can range from very mild to severe respiratory illness and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be very similar to those for influenza, so it may be difficult to distinguish without clinical testing.

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include:

— Fever. A sign of activation of the immune system against a given pathogen, fever can be caused either by bacterium or virus.

— Cough. The combination of fever and cough is highly suggestive of infection in the respiratory system. Still, this combination is also present in the common cold, influenza, and many other non-lethal respiratory illnesses.

— Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. This is often an indication of the level of severity of an infection and should be taken seriously.

— Tiredness or aches. Some people are barely affected and some have “shaking chills” and muscle aches. Chills are usually found in later stages of the disease, and it is not a typical early sign of coronavirus. Tiredness can be described as disorientation and weakness or feeling heaviness in the body or a sluggish mind.

— Sore throat. This is an early manifestation of the disease, but when you have this symptom, the infection has probably spread through your system and may have infected others around you.

— Headaches are not a main symptom of this disease but may appear in some cases, especially in patients with chronic conditions who may have circulatory problems triggered by this new infection.

— The significant alteration in body systems typically manifests itself in the form of loss of appetite. This is a common symptom in the early phase of the disease, but may become more apparent later on, when the infection becomes more severe.

The guidelines indicate that anyone feeling these symptoms should self-isolate and not contact the official hotline in Egypt (105) or head to the hospital for testing unless:

1. You have had contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient and then you developed symptoms, especially cough, shortness of breath, and fever.

2. You have returned within 14 days from another country where there are rampant infections, and you developed any of the symptoms.

3. You are a healthworker or in contact with healthworkers and you develop symptoms.

4. You work in the fields of tourism or travel, connected to countries where many cases emerged, and you develop symptoms.

protective face mask
A volunteer hands out a protective face mask to a woman in the Trastevere district as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Rome, Italy, April 2, 2020. (photo: Reuters)

Protect those closest to you

If the symptoms are not linked to any of the cases abovementioned, self-quarantine is advised, in order to avoid infecting others.

Self-isolation should be practiced in such a way so as not to harm those closest to you at home.

The US Centre for Disease Control and the UK NHS issued advice in that regard as general guidelines:

The main step is to stay in a separate room with the door closed and windows open, and to sleep alone. If you have to share a bathroom, wipe the surfaces you have touched every time you use it.

If it is extremely necessary to leave the room, try to keep at least two metres (three steps) from other people that you live with, particularly older people or those with underlying health conditions.

Manage your symptoms by taking paracetamol, and stay well hydrated by drinking water and hot drinks frequently.

Wash hands frequently with soap on a regular basis, each time for at least 20 seconds. Everyone in the house should wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and clean surfaces regularly.

If you cough or sneeze, do that into tissues, throw them in a trash bin, and then wash your hands. Your trash bin should be kept separate to that of the rest of the household, be double-bagged, and not thrown away until 72 hours has passed.

Keep your things to yourself. This included dishes, towels, bed linen and cutlery. Your clothes can be washed with other family laundry.


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