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JAMA Patient Page
July 10, 2020

What Is COVID-19?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Amsterdam UMC, Location UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JAMA. 2020;324(8):816. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12984

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a new coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Coronaviruses are a cause of the common cold, but SARS-CoV-2, which likely came from bats, causes more severe disease in many patients.1

Symptoms occur on average about 5 days after exposure to the virus. Almost all patients develop symptoms within 12 days. Therefore, a 14-day self-isolation is recommended for people who were likely exposed to the virus. The most common symptoms are cough, fever, and shortness of breath; most patients with COVID-19 have at least 1 of these. Other common symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. People may also have loss or change in sense of taste and smell.2

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    2 Comments for this article
    EXPAND ALL
    Risk of Death Following Covid-19 Infection
    David Bennett, MSc | Pharmaceutical Consultant
    For patient communication it would be safer to stress that the risk of death quoted in this paper refers to hospital patients. There is a danger that a member of the public infected with Covid-19 but not requiring hospitalisation would consider themselves a patient and so think that their risk of death is 1 in 900 (or other, according to their age).
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
    Lessons from COVID-19
    Michael McAleer, PhD (Econometrics), Queen's | Asia University, Taiwan
    The helpful, instructive and cautionary explanations on coronaviruses and pneumonia by experts in infectious diseases and critical care medicine are an important and commendable public service in this JAMA Patient Page.

    Clear and verifiable pronouncements of the symptoms, diagnosis, progression and treatment of the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to the COVID-19 disease after exposure are salutary lessons on the virulent nature of the virus and disease.

    The discussion gives a warning to individuals of the need to be cautious, extremely so for those with existing comorbidities and weakened immune systems.

    Alternative tests through swabbing
    and blood samples are explained in terms of the time taken to obtain positive outcomes, but there is no discussion of their accuracy and success in detecting true positive and true negative outcomes.

    Instances of repeat infections are not given extensive coverage, possibly because of a current lack of clinical trials.

    Alternative treatment options are presented, with an explanation that the lack of a vaccine cannot be replaced by antiviral medications and steroids.

    The comment: "For most patients, lung function returns to normal after pneumonia", might be regarded as premature in light of recent findings that COVID-19 deaths have been recorded as leading to blood clots in multiple organs, not just the lungs.

    Clinical trials of the long term effects on patients who have purportedly recovered from COVID-19 are not yet available.
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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