Mar 15, 2020 - Health

What you need to know about the coronavirus

Illustration of a gloved hand on a computer mouse
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation swirling around the virus, so here are quick just-the-facts answers to your most urgent concerns, based on current knowledge.

 Q: What are the symptoms I should watch for?

  • Fever (88%) and dry cough (68%) are two of the most common symptoms, followed by fatigue, thick mucus coughed from lungs, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headache, and chills.

Q: If I have those symptoms, should I go to my doctor or the hospital?

  • Right now, the CDC recommends you distance yourself from others, including your family and your pets. If you can, designate a separate bedroom and bathroom for yourself.
  • Call your provider and tell them you suspect COVID-19. Remind them of any travel and if you are over 60 or have underlying conditions like diabetes or a heart condition.
  • Don't share dishes/glasses with anyone; wash hands often; clean surfaces frequently. Stay hydrated.
  • The CDC does not recommend you go to the hospital unless you have shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, new confusion or strong lethargy, or a bluish tint to your lips or face.
  • CDC's hotline number for questions: 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Q: Why is there a shortage of tests in the U.S.? When will we get them?

  • The CDC’s initial test for the virus was faulty. And, for reasons that remain unknown, the U.S. opted not to rely on the World Health Organization’s test while the CDC developed a new one. Red tape slowed down academic labs that wanted to quickly develop their own.
  • With both academic and commercial labs now pitching in, testing is becoming more widely available. But we’re still playing catch-up, and the virus has likely been spreading undetected in the meantime.

Q: What's known about children and COVID-19?

  • Children, fortunately, rarely seem to experience severe complications from the coronavirus, but it's not known whether children with underlying conditions may be at higher risk for severe illness.
  • It's unclear what about children's immune systems is protecting them.

Q: What stage is the outbreak in the U.S.?

  • The virus has now been confirmed in 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. However, due to the lack of testing early on, the level of infection in the U.S. beyond the currently confirmed 189,035 cases (as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Mar. 31) is unknown.
  • The U.S. and other parts of Europe have followed Italy's exponential trajectory arc.
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