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If you’re displaying indicators of sickness — a cough, runny nostril and fever — how do you know whether or not you have a chilly, the flu or COVID-19, the new coronavirus that originated in China and is spreading round globe.

The reply is that it is troublesome to tell for certain until you have been examined by a medical skilled.

“It’s actually onerous as a result of in all these issues the spectrum of illness is broad,” stated Dr. Lee Atkinson-McEvoy, a pediatric physician at UC San Francisco. “Even in coronavirus, they’re seeing individuals who have milder illness, so simply a cough and runny nostril, however no fever. Some individuals who check constructive are asymptomatic, that means no signs in any respect.”

Coronaviruses are amongst a group of viruses that trigger the “widespread chilly,” and there are seven recognized ones that can infect people. 4 of those (229E, HKU1, OC43 and NL63) are seasonal and usually trigger gentle respiratory an infection – fever, cough, nasal congestion, and headache, in accordance with Dr. Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medication and infectious illness at UC San Francisco.


“The remaining three coronaviruses (MERS, SARS, COVID-19) are the results of current zoonotic (animal-to-human) transmission occasions and though they’re additionally related to gentle respiratory signs, an infection can progress to trigger extreme, life-threatening pneumonia,” Dr. Chiu shared in an e-mail.

ALSO: Are the aged at a larger danger for coronavirus problems?

COVID-19 is the most lately found coronavirus and was unknown earlier than the outbreak started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. So far, a vaccination or antiviral medicine is not accessible to deal with it, in accordance with the World Well being Group. Individuals with critical sickness needs to be hospitalized.

The flu, a.ok.a. seasonal influenza, is just like COVID-19. It additionally causes respiratory an infection and can additionally lead extreme pneumonia.

“The signs between widespread chilly viruses, COVID-19, and the flu overlap considerably, a minimum of in the early levels of sickness,” wrote Chiu. “Demise from coronavirus in sufferers with pneumonia is regarded as a mixture of direct injury of the viral an infection to the airways (bronchiolitis and/or pneumonia), an irregular immune response (“cytokine storm”), and secondary bacterial infections.  That is just like the manner individuals die from flu.”


With the flu, the aged, very younger, or these with compromised immune programs are at the highest danger for extreme illness. The present information accessible and analysis on the novel coronavirus suggests the aged and immunocompromised are extra vulnerable to critical problems and youngsters are at a decrease danger, stated Atkinson-McEvoy.

The most recent estimates based mostly on the reported variety of circumstances and deaths round the world recommend that the demise fee from COVID-19 an infection is about 2 p.c, however this will change as the epidemic progresses. For comparability, SARS had a demise fee of about 10 p.c and seasonal influenza has a demise fee of 0.1%.

That stated, Dr. Lee Riley, a UC Berkeley professor and chair of the Division of Infectious Illness and Vaccinology, provides mortality fee is regularly greater at the starting of epidemics as a result of “we do not know how you can cope with them.”

“We have vaccines for influenza so this contributes to its decrease fee, however if we did not have the vaccines, the mortality charges for influenza can be greater than 0.1%,” stated Riley. “Additionally, mortality charges for influenza varies in accordance with the virus pressure inflicting the epidemic, which modifications yearly.  So, it is too simplistic to match mortality charges of two very various kinds of virus infections.”

The commonest signs of coronavirus are cough, fever and shortness of breath. In some circumstances, the virus causes extreme respiratory sickness. If a individual develops signs and has motive to imagine they might have coronavirus, the California Division of Public Well being recommends you name your well being care supplier earlier than going into a clinic or hospital

“Contacting them in advance will make it possible for individuals can get the care they want with out placing others in danger,” in accordance with the well being division. “Please remember to tell your well being care supplier about your journey historical past.”

Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. E mail her information suggestions and pictures at agraff@sfgate.com.

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