What is Coronavirus COVID-19?

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first cases of this disease were found in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province in Central China. From there, the disease spread quickly around the world and on March 11th the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. At that moment there were 118.000 confirmed cases, in 110 different countries. The WHO stated that it’s not just a public health crisis, but a crisis that touches every sector. Because of all measures taken to fight the spread of the disease, the negative impact on the economy is also huge.   

What is the average incubation period for COVID-19?

The incubation period is the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms. The incubation period of COVID-19 is about 5 days. (Source: A research done by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in the ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’ in 2020). A median of 5 days means that 50% of all infected people develop the first symptoms within approximately 5 days. The same research also states that 97.5% of all infected people develops the first symptoms within 11.5 days. Other researchers, who also state that the median incubation period is about 5 days, estimate the incubation period range to be between 2 and 14 days. (Source: Linton NM, Kobayashi T, Yang Y, et al. Incubation period and other epidemiological characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infections with right truncation: a statistical analysis of publicly available case data. J Clin Med. 2020).
Since the COVID-19 virus isn’t around that long, the above numbers could change over time as soon as more data is gathered.
The median incubation period of COVID-19 and the range found in the above researches is pretty similar to the incubation period of other known human coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS. The average incubation period of the seasonal flu is about 2 days, and the incubation period of the swine flu is between 1 and 4 days.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms of the disease are fever, a cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms look like the normal flu, but this virus can also cause symptoms that need immediate medical attention. These more severe symptoms are having difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure on the chest, having difficulty walking, confusion and bluish face and/or lips. If you experience any of these severe symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately. Less common symptoms that can come with COVID-19 are tiredness, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. What you should do if you are in doubt of having COVID-19, depends on the situation. The chance of having the disease instead of a normal flu is for example higher if you live in or travelled from an area with a wide spread of the disease. It’s best to follow the instructions from the government and public health organization of the country you live in. In the United Kingdom, Public Health England is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. Their guidelines around COVID-19 can be found here: Public Health England guidelines

People infected with COVID-19 can experience the symptoms from very mild to severe. Some people that are infected hardly suffer any symptoms, while others can be very ill. Elderly people and people with existing chronic medical conditions, like heart/lung diseases or diabetes, are at higher risk of getting the severe symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms of the disease can proceed to pneumonia, the failure of multiple organs and death. Luckily, most people infected with the disease experience the mild symptoms.

What can I do to lower the risk of getting infected with COVID-19?

The COVID-19 coronavirus mainly spreads via small droplets that get in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can transfer directly from human to human, or it can be transferred via surfaces like door handles. Below you can find several things you can do to lower the chance of getting infected, according to the WHO and CDC (follow the links to get more information from their websites): 

- Don’t come closer to other people than 2 metres (6 feet), especially when other people are sick or have symptoms
- Sneeze or cough in your elbow or use a tissue and immediately throw away the tissue after you have used it
- Wash your hands and wrists with soap and / or disinfectant often. Wash your hands and wrists for at least 20 seconds
- Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch
- Don’t touch your face (mainly eyes, nose and mouth), especially if your hands aren’t clean
- Only go outside if it’s really necessary, like to do groceries, for health reasons or for work if you really can’t work from home 
- Definitely stay at home when you have any of the earlier described symptoms or feel sick
- Avoid sharing household items if you’re sick
- Avoid mass gatherings and large events
- Follow up the instructions inclined by your government    

For more concrete information about guidelines and measures that apply to your specific country or region, please visit the website of the public health organization in your county. Citizens of the United Kingdom can find more information on the website of Public Health England.