severe coronavirus illness
Most people infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and recover without special medical treatment.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory infection and recover without needing hospitalization or urgent treatment. Some people may be asymptomatic (without any symptoms). Older people and people with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, are likely to develop serious complications.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections, such as common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in humans. Coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes (corona = crown) present on the surface of the virus.

What are the complications of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and lead to death in some people. Older adults or people with existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

COVID-19 can lead to complications, such as:

What happens when a person gets COVID-19?

Most people (about 80 percent) develop mild to moderate symptoms and can recover without hospitalization. People with serious and rare symptoms need immediate medical assistance in a hospital. About 15 percent of patients become seriously ill and require oxygen, whereas five percent of patients become critically ill and need intensive medical care.

Severe complications, such as respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock, thromboembolism or multiorgan failure, including failure of the heart, liver or kidneys, can lead to death.

In rare situations, children may develop severe inflammatory syndrome a few weeks after COVID-19 infection.

Long-term effects of COVID-19

Some people who have had COVID-19 continue to experience fatigue and respiratory and neurological symptoms.

How is COVID-19 treated?

There are no specific treatments for COVID-19, although scientists are working on developing treatments and many clinical trials are underway.

People with mild COVID-19 infection can ease their symptoms with sufficient rest, hydration, a good diet and medicines prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics won’t help because they help treat bacterial infections and not viral infections. Using self-medication is not advisable to prevent or cure COVID-19.

  • Supportive care includes oxygen and respiratory support, such as ventilation, for patients who are critically ill.
  • Research has shown that the use of hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir and interferon have little or no effect in treating COVID-19.
  • A variety of steroid medications, including dexamethasone, are being used to treat COVID-19, but research on their effectiveness is underway.

Prevention and precautions for COVID-19

Getting vaccinated according to the recommended schedule can prevent people from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill. However, precautions should still be followed even if a person is vaccinated.

Following precautions could reduce the risk of infection, such as:

  • Wear a face mask. Wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth in public. 
  • Practice social distancing. Avoid close contact and maintain a distance of six feet or two meters with people.
  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces. Being in crowded places puts a person at a higher risk.
  • Wash hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent of alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
    • If wearing a mask: Cough or sneeze into the mask and change it as soon as possible and wash your hands.
    • If not wearing a mask: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Throw away the used tissue and wash your hands immediately.
  • Don’t touch the nose, mouth or face. Coronaviruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
  • Clean and disinfect. Clean frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Be alert and watch out for symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 are:

There is no proof that herbal therapies and teas can prevent infection.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/3/2021
References
Coronavirus. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1

Cennimo DJ. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500114-overview