During the chaos of the Coronavirus outbreak, you probably freak out at the slightest tickle in your throat, the random sneeze that comes out of nowhere, or the faintest ping of pain in your chest. Don’t worry, most people are becoming hyperaware of what they are feeling, and some are even looking back at previous times of sickness wondering, did I have Coronavirus and not even know it?
If you’re looking back on the time you had a cold or the flu earlier this year and wondering if it was Coronavirus, you are not alone. The main symptoms of Coronavirus include a cough, shortness of breath and a fever. Additional symptoms seen in some patients include digestive problems, a headache, a sore throat, and loss of smell or taste at the onset of the illness.
A mild case of COVID-19 can definitely be mistaken for a cold or the flu, as the symptoms appear to be the same.
“Coronavirus is actually quite a significant spectrum of symptoms, from people who are entirely asymptomatic and would have no idea that they have it to people with very mild, cold-like symptoms – runny nose, congestion, sore throat – to people with more flu-like symptoms – high fevers, muscle aches, shortness of breath and cough. All the way up to people with severe illness, who we’re seeing in the hospital with respiratory failure, requiring ICU care,” Dr. William Hillmann told The Guardian.
Virologist researcher Trevor Bedford has found evidence that the Coronavirus began spreading in the United States in January, meaning that those who were sick since then could have had the virus without even knowing.
While you can speculate all you want, there is no test that can tell you if you have had the virus previously and have recovered.
“At this point, we don’t have a test to tell that,” Hillmann told The Guardian. “We are developing antibody tests to check for a prior infection, but those aren’t ready for clinical use yet. The only definitive way to know that you’ve had it is to get tested while you have it and to have that test be positive.”
As the spectrum of symptoms for this Coronavirus is wide, there are a significant and there have been cases of those who tested positive for the virus when being completely asymptomatic, like actor Idris Elba. Due to the shortage of tests in the United States, most places are only allowing those with symptoms to be tested, so the percentage of those with the virus who are asymptotic is unknown. But there was a study done in Iceland that tested a large percentage of the country’s population and found that 50% of the people who tested positive had no symptoms.
“A significant proportion of people who are totally asymptomatic are contagious for some portion of time,” Hillmann told The Guardian. “We just don’t know [for how long] at this point, because we don’t have the kind of testing available to screen for asymptomatic infections.”
Since you don’t know for sure if you have had the virus, if you have it now, or if you are completely susceptible to contracting it, it is important to continue to practice social distancing in order to protect yourself and others.