What does the clinical course of COVID-19 look like?
It tends to start with fever and cough, but before then, the average incubation period – the time between the moment you get sufficiently exposed to the virus and the moment you start showing symptoms – seems to be about five days.
So, almost a week goes by when you’re infected – and potentially infectious – before you even know it. About 98% of those who are going to start showing symptoms do so by day 12, which explains why people are typically asked to self-quarantine for two weeks after a potential exposure.
After infection, apparent viral shedding may continue for more than a month (with an average of 20 days). Though it’s not clear how contagious survivors are – if at all – during that extended time period.
Common and uncommon
The most common symptoms are fever and cough, experienced by about 90% and 70% of patients, respectively, based on an analysis of more than fifty thousand COVID-19 patients. In terms of less common symptoms, only about four in ten experience fatigue; three in ten cough up phlegm; and two in ten experience muscle aches.
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