COVID-19 infection is suspected in each case when the patient presents at least one of the symptoms specific for the disease and 14 days before the onset of symptoms the patient had a close contact with a coronavirus-infected person, or the patient is employed at or a resident of a social/healthcare institution where people are at a higher risk for coronavirus infection, or the patient visited or lives at an area which has been reported to be at risk for public transmission of the infection by WHO weekly epidemiological updates or reports of local authorities.
General symptoms of COVID-19 disease:
- dry cough;
- fever or subfebrility;
- difficulty breathing;
- new loss of smell;
- taste dysfunction or loss of taste.
Beside the above-mentioned symptoms, other symptoms might also develop during COVID-19 infection as distinct coronavirus variants may cause slightly different symptoms and the mitigating effect of vaccination is also notable on the course of disease. Hence, beyond the above-mentioned criteria, the diagnosis of the COVID-19 infection can also be established based on the traits of disease transmission and the treating physician’s expertise.
In order to confirm or exclude a suspected COVID-19 infection, rapid antigen test and/or Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs, PCR tests) are needed. Suspected and confirmed patients have to be quarantined. The quarantine-period ends if the virus is no longer detectable on control COVID-19 tests. Control tests and the days of testing are initiated by the treating physician.
Attention! Delta and omicron infections rarely cause loss of taste or smell, and vaccinated patients show mainly mild and general symptoms therefore, it is hard to differentiate the COVID-19 infection from common cold or allergy.
The prevailing COVID-19 symptoms:
- sore throat,
- scratchy throat;
- congestion or runny nose;
- fatigue, wooziness.
Gastrointestinal symptoms – nausea, diarrhea and vomiting – have become more prevalent, and tinnitus or tingling in the ears and lightheadedness, pinkeye (resembling allergy), swollen eyes and eye irritation are also widespread.
If you suspect COVID-19 disease based on the upper mentioned criteria, here is the list of the most important steps to take:
- Do not visit public areas, stay home.
- Call your doctor and tell him or her about your suspected COVID-19 disease.
- Tell your symptoms in details, and your doctor will decide on the necessity of COVID-19 test and quarantine.
- Stay at home isolated until you get the test results.
If the test confirms coronavirus infection and your symptoms are mild, you have to be isolated in your home or at your place of residency.
If your symptoms are more severe and you need medical care, you will be hospitalized and quarantined according to the current hospitalization order.
It has to be noted that non-COVID-19 specific antiviral therapy is available, however the efficacy of these medications are still yet to be confirmed. Effectivity of these drugs may increase if started within the first 3-4 days of the disease. According to the minister’s handout, the antiviral drug can be prescribed before the arrival of the test result, so contact your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect infection.
Continuous monitoring of the symptoms and vital parameters reflecting the state of the heart and the respiratory system (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation) is essential for the early detection of state deterioration or the symptoms’ progression.
Monitoring has particular importance in case of patients with certain conditions, such as patients with chronic diseases or pregnant women.
For further information, read Course of action in case of confirmed COVID-19 disease.