Symptoms and Transmission of COVID-19

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ROCHESTER, Minn. Information about the spread of COVID-19 continues to evolve.

When it comes coronaviruses like COVID-19, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, pediatric infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic, says the illness can vary from 'mildly affected' to more severe cases that require hospitalization. Symptoms of the virus have a broad range, as well.

"The coronaviruses typically cause respiratory illnesses," says Dr. Rajapakse. "They can range in severity, from very mild, maybe even asymptomatic illness, all the way to severe disease or sometimes rarely even death."

Not only are the symptoms similar to influenza, but the transmission is similar, as well.

"The main symptoms that have been described with COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath," says Dr. Rajapakse. "Interestingly, unlike many other respiratory viruses, only a minority of patients have been reporting upper respiratory symptoms like runny nose or sore throat, although some people have reported those."

"The primary route of transmission for this is thought to be respiratory droplets," says Dr. Rajapakse. "Respiratory droplets are usually transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes, and someone else either inhales it or touches something that the virus particle has landed on, and then touches their own eyes, nose or mouth. Generally, a respiratory droplet can transmit about 3 to 6 feet from the person who has coughed or sneezed."

Dr. Rajapakse gives advice on how people can protect themselves and others.

"The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from getting infected -- Number 1 -- is to wash your hands," says Dr. Rajapakse. "The second thing is to practice what we call respiratory etiquette. That means coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into a tissue, and then washing your hands well afterward. We know viral particles that end up on your fingers and hands can be transmitted to other people. That's one way to protect yourself and your family."

"The other main thing that we would encourage people [to do] is to stay home if they're feeling ill -- with cough and fever especially. This avoids exposing people at school or at work to infection and illness," says Dr. Rajapakse.

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19.

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