The symptoms of infection for the new coronavirus are often similar to those of other respiratory virus infections, such as influenza. Symptoms can include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Most people will only have mild symptoms, but some can become very sick. When person-to-person spread has occurred with other novel coronaviruses that caused diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of MERS and SARS has generally occurred between people in close contact.
“The means of transmission is similar: through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, or by direct physical contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands,” says Dr. David Goldberg, internist and infectious disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Westchester and an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
If you think you may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and have symptoms, before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. You can also utilize a virtual care platform, such as NewYork-Presbyterian’s NYP OnDemand, to meet with a healthcare professional by video conference. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will determine whether or not you need to come in to be evaluated. Avoid contact with others and wear a face mask if you need to leave your home when you are sick.