Symptoms of COVID-19

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing
  • difficulty breathing, which may develop into pneumonia
  • sore throat
  • fatigue

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.

How severe is COVID-19?

The virus can cause a range of symptoms, including pneumonia, and sometimes it may have no symptoms at all.

People at most risk of serious infection include:

  • those with compromised immune systems
  • elderly people
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (e.g. lung conditions)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have higher rates of chronic illness
  • babies and very young children

If you do need to visit your doctor or the hospital emergency department, it is very important that you call before visiting, to describe your symptoms and travel history.

If you have severe difficulty breathing, call One Zero Seven Five (1075) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history.

How is COVID-19 different from the flu (influenza)?

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. The seasonal flu is caused by different types of influenza virus.

Both diseases are infections and can cause respiratory symptoms like a sore throat, runny nose and cough, as well as fever.

However, there are some differences:

  • Influenza often includes muscle pains and headache, while these symptoms are uncommon in COVID-19.
  • Another difference between the two types of virus is the kind of person affected. So far, severe COVID-19 has mainly affected older age groups and people with chronic illnesses.

While the elderly or chronically ill are also vulnerable to influenza, severe cases of the flu can sometimes make healthy people, children and pregnant women very sick too. To date, these latter groups haven’t been significantly affected by COVID-19, but health authorities are monitoring the profile of people with severe infections closely.

Can the coronavirus be spread from human to human?

Yes, there have been human to human transmissions of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Health authorities both in Australia and around the world are closely monitoring whether the risk of transmission from infected people will change over time.

How does the coronavirus spread?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person to person through:

  • direct contact with a person while they are infectious, including 24 hours before they become unwell
  • close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who does not take appropriate precautions when coughing or sneezing
  • touching contaminated objects or surfaces (such as door-knobs or tables) and then touching the mouth or face

Read more here about how to avoid infection.

How soon after infection do COVID-19 symptoms appear?

In most cases, it takes up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after a person has been infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). The period is also known as the ‘incubation period’.

Based on the information currently available and medical expertise, the Australian Department of Health is advising people at risk to self-isolate in their homes for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms. Go here to find out when self-isolation is required.

Can a person transmit the coronavirus to others before symptoms appear?

Yes, it appears transmission can take place at least 24 hours before any symptoms appear. It’s still being investigated, but evidence suggests that a person can spread COVID-19 infection from about 1 day before they first develop symptoms, until up to 1 day after the symptoms stop.

For how long can a person spread the coronavirus to other people?

The length of time during which a person remains infectious (and can spread the COVID-19 infection to others) is not yet entirely known. However, some evidence suggests that a person can spread the infection from about a day before they first develop symptoms until up to one day after their symptoms are gone.

How long can the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to survive on surfaces?

It’s currently uncertain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. This means it can survive on surfaces for a few hours or, under some circumstances, for up to several days. This could depend on which type of surface it is, or on the temperature or level of humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.

What should I do if I meet a person with COVID-19?

If you have been identified as a contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection in Australia, your local public health unit will get in touch with you and provide advice.

If you’ve been in close contact with the infected person (including in the 24 hours before their symptoms started), you need to isolate yourself at home for 14 days after the contact, monitor your health and report any symptoms to your local public health unit.

‘Close contact’ is typically being face to face with the person for at least 15 minutes, or being in the same closed space for at least 2 hours.

If you had less contact than that, there is a much smaller risk of your getting infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. However, as a precaution, you must still monitor your health for 14 days after the contact.

Practise simple hygiene by:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser (e.g. before and after eating, and after going to the toilet)
  • cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of it straight away; wash your hands afterwards
  • cough or sneeze into your (flexed) elbow
  • cough away from other people
  • stay more than 1.5 metres away from people when out in public, if possible

What should I do if I develop COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have severe difficulty breathing, call One Zero Seven Five (1075) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history and any close contact with an infected person.

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