What will happen if I get coronavirus?


If you get infected with COVID-19 you won’t know if for some time. The average incubation period is 5 days so if you are going to get it, for most people you will get it in 5 days. And almost everybody will get the symptoms within 14 days and there are a small number of people that will get it beyond 14 days, maybe 1 in 1000 who are infected.

And some people who won’t get symptoms at all, they will just be infected and will get symptoms that they won’t notice. So five to fourteen days; fourteen days is the average. The symptoms are fever, fatigue, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath of varying severity and you can just have a sniffle. Increasingly people are recognising that it affects their bowel as well, so you may get some loose motions or some tummy pain but that’s not a prominent symptom.

The other issue is how bad it’s going to affect you, so if you are young, under 40 or so, even under 50 the chances of you dying from COVID-19 are almost zero but it escalates pretty quickly beyond that so if you are 80 years old with heart disease, diabetes or obstructive lung disease your chances of dying are around 15% which is pretty high. So if you look at Italy at the moment their mortality rate or what is called case-fatality rate is around 6%. So in other words, relative to the total number of people we know are infected, the portion of people who are dying is 6%. And the reason that’s so high is that Italy is an older population than Australia’s and so there are more people who potentially can become infected and who are at risk.

You are also more at risk if you’ve got immunosuppression and transplanted organs, cancer chemotherapy and so on, and the extent to which that puts you at risk is varied according to the kind of immunosuppression.

There is a little bit of evidence that while you may be more susceptible to infection if you are mildly immunosuppressed it might help you against this period of side effects of COVID-19 because it’s an immune reaction in your lung and maybe a little bit of immunosuppression is a good thing because it actually suppresses that immune reaction in your lung. But you wouldn’t want to bet your life on it.


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