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Symptoms and testing

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) belongs to the same family as the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. People with COVID-19 have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing when it affects their lungs and causes pneumonia.


There is no vaccine against the virus available yet nor is there any specific treatment for the infection. Symptoms may vary from only mild to more severe, depending on the overall health of the person. Older people or those with more serious health problems such as cancer, lung disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, HIV/Aids and renal failure may experience breathing difficulties or develop pneumonia and will require intensive care. Fortunately, the virus has a high recovery rate.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to seasonal flu and appear within three to 14 days after infection. Some people experience no symptoms at all, but the most common symptoms include headache, a runny nose or sneezing, a cough or sore throat, muscle pain or body aches, fatigue, and a feeling of general discomfort, uneasiness or pain (malaise).

Occasionally, COVID-19 can cause serious or life-threatening symptoms such as a very high fever (above 38 °C), a severe cough and shortness of breath (often indicating pneumonia) or sepsis.


There is varied information regarding susceptibility to COVID-19. However it would seem that older people and those who have severe underlying medical illnesses are at higher risk of falling seriously ill if infected by COVID-19. In general, one should be aware that these groups may be most at risk –
  • People are more vulnerable from the age of 65 years onwards.
  • People of all ages with underlying medical illnesses. These include people with:
    • a chronic lung disease or asthma;
    • serious heart conditions;
    • a condition that suppresses the immune system such as those receiving cancer treatment;
    • diabetes;
    • chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; and
    • liver disease

04 - Risk


If you are worried that you might be infected with the COVID-19 virus, go for a screening as soon as possible.

Phone your local doctor or clinic. They will tell you where to go to be screened for the virus. If you need to go to a doctor’s rooms, clinic or hospital, inform them beforehand of your visit. If you need to be tested after you’ve been screened for the virus, the healthcare provider will refer you.

Read more about the difference between screening and testing, and what to expect, in our HealthyInfo.

Use Medihelp’s online provider search functionality to find a doctor or hospital in your area.


  • Always wear a face mask and avoid personal contact with other people.
  • Inform everyone with whom you have been in contact that you are displaying symptoms of the virus.
  • Isolate yourself as a precautionary measure while awaiting the test results and ensure that your symptoms are monitored.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and practise good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items with other people.
  • Clean all frequently touched surfaces regularly.

05 - Exposure


02 - About
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