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CDC updates symptoms list for COVID-19

Man putting on PPE, including a mask Army Maj. Feliciano Salgado puts on personal protection equipment before meeting with a soldier with symptoms similar to COVID-19, at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sebastian Nemec)

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With the year more than half over, many people remain concerned about catching the respiratory virus COVID-19. The number of confirmed cases worldwide has increased from about 3 million at the end of April to more than 20 million as of Aug. 12. In the United States alone, the total number of cases during this time period grew from 981,000 to approximately 5.1 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news: Most people who become infected with COVID-19 will recover, according to the CDC, and without needing special medical treatment. So there's no need to panic if you get sick. What's important is knowing what to do next to help ensure a full recovery and avoid infecting someone else.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 include fever at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC says these symptoms can occur anywhere from two days to two weeks after becoming infected. Other symptoms may include muscle or body aches, fatigue, headache, chills, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and new loss of taste or smell.

Emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention include trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, and bluish lips or face. The CDC advises anyone experiencing these symptoms to call 911. If possible, put on a face covering before medical help arrives.

Some people may become seriously ill from COVID-19 and have difficulty breathing. The virus may be especially dangerous for people who have chronic or long-term health conditions that affect the immune system. Those conditions include heart or lung disease, diabetes, treatment for cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

For cases that are not emergencies, experts advise people to stay home. Don't go to a military medical treatment facility or urgent care clinic because that may expose others to the virus. Instead, contact the MHS Nurse Advice Line. Registered nurses will screen for COVID-19 exposure or infection. They also will offer advice for self-care and, if appropriate, coordinate virtual appointments with health care providers.

“Virtual care has proven to be a valuable tool for health care providers and patients during the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Public Health Service Lt. Bobby Taylor, program manager for the MHS Nurse Advice Line.

“This resource allows you to practice social distancing and still get the answers to your health questions and concerns,” he said.

The CDC offers advice for managing COVID-19 symptoms at home. It includes resting, staying hydrated, and monitoring symptoms to make sure they don't get worse. Sick people also should isolate themselves from others, including family members. That may require staying in separate rooms of the house and using a separate bathroom, if possible.

Health care providers can offer advice for when sick people can stop isolating. The most recent CDC guidance notes that isolation and other precautions generally can be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset, 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and improvement of other symptoms.

TRICARE beneficiaries can sign up for email updates and get the latest information on COVID-19, including emergency and urgent care options and pharmacy home deliveries.

Health care providers and military families can learn about CDC-based guidance on COVID-19 through a Spotlight page on defense.gov. said Army Col. (Dr.) Jennifer Kishimori, director of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear medical countermeasures policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. The page also offers force health protection guidance, she said.

"We are working to communicate current CDC guidance for public health, hospital preparedness, patient evaluation, infection control, laboratory testing, and health risk communication, in coordination with the Joint Staff," she said.

This guidance ensures any patient with a risk of infection receives the proper care and testing, and that public health authorities are notified of all cases.

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