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Do I Have Coronavirus? What Should I Do if I Think I Have It?

Fanni Kaszás 2020.04.06.

On Sunday, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller warned that Budapest is at “serious risk” of seeing an “explosion” of coronavirus cases, with most of Hungary’s confirmed cases located in the capital and Pest county. With the growing number of confirmed cases, it is of the utmost priority to keep yourselves and your loved ones healthy and safe. In order to help, we have gathered information on the symptoms of the disease and the next steps if anyone notices they have them. 

From data available so far, and from the experience of epicenters in China and later in Europe, experts say that 80% of patients infected with coronavirus are more likely to get through the disease at home with mild symptoms or even without any. However, while the flu can only develop pneumonia in severe cases and slowly, as a kind of complication with coronavirus it occurs almost immediately in severe form. It is therefore of utmost importance to notice the symptoms as soon as possible and take preventive steps and ask for proper help and hospital care if you have more severe symptoms.

Symptoms you should monitor

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are high fever, fatigue, and dry cough, while some infected people may also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. Many patients reported that the first symptoms of coronavirus included loss of sense of smell and taste, but research on this is still at an early stage – and some other diseases, such as the common cold may also cause the loss of smell and taste.

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The cough to look out for is continuous, which means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. According to scientists, on average, it takes five days for people to start developing the symptoms after contracting the disease, but some people will get symptoms much later than this. As for now, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the incubation period lasts up to 14 days, during which the patient may not show symptoms but nonetheless can infect others.

What to do when you notice symptoms?

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment, but older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness. It is important to stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

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Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other diseases. However, it is really important that if you do have serious symptoms, such as constant fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice immediately as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition.

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Patients with symptoms should not go to medical facilities, but call their general practitioners, who will call an ambulance. Then, in case of mild symptoms, the ambulance service will take a test at the patient’s home and they have to stay in home quarantine, while with more serious symptoms, the patient will be taken to the nearest infectology department at the hospital.

What protective measures should I take?

The best preventive method is regular and thorough hand washing, preferably with soap and water. Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, then your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Wearing Face Masks: Must-have or Unneccessary and Even Harmful?

Coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with infected people are also important for limiting the spread of the virus. People should maintain at least 1.5 meters distance between themselves and anyone who does not live in the same household as them. It is also important to keep the regulations and curfew restrictions of the Hungarian authorities. The current restrictions are in effect until April 11th, and it only allows people to leave their homes to go to work or to run essential errands.

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Although masks do not prevent the wearer from contracting the virus, it helps prevent its further spread: if someone is asymptomatic but tests positive, or the coronavirus infection is still in the incubation period, which is between 7-14 days. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing, but it is important to note that disposable face masks can only be used once. As there is a worldwide shortage of face masks, WHO warns everyone to use the masks responsibly and check how to wear it and dispose of it properly.

featured illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI