Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms, infection and treatment

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus are fever, dry cough and fatigue. Sometimes more serious symptoms occur that can even be fatal. The new coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, after people developed pneumonia without an apparent cause and for which existing vaccines or treatments were ineffective. The virus can be transmitted from person to person. The incubation period (the time between infection and the first clinical symptoms of the disease) of the virus is between 2 and 14 days and you are contagious during this period.

  • What is the coronavirus?
  • Subfamily of viruses
  • The Netherlands
  • Causes
  • Symptoms of the new coronavirus
  • Phenomena
  • Incubation period
  • Most common symptoms
  • Less common symptoms
  • Severe symptoms
  • Course of COVID-19
  • Risk groups
  • Spread and contamination
  • Protection against infections
  • Treatment of COVID-19
  • Vaccine
  • Risk of contamination via food or items
  • Wearing a mask or face covering


Coronavirus / Source:, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-4.0)

What is the coronavirus?

Subfamily of viruses

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and humans. For example, SARS was thought to have been transmitted from Civets (a genus of small, slim-built predators found in Southeast Asia) to humans, while MERS traveled from a camel to humans. Several known coronaviruses circulate in animals that have not yet infected humans.
The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, which means crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a crown.

The Netherlands

A new coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7, 2020 and named COVID-19, is a new strain that had not previously been identified in humans. In 2020, the virus spread all over the world. OI February 27, 2020 it also appeared in the Netherlands. Most people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special medical treatment. Some people do become seriously ill and require medical attention.


COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Infection with the novel coronavirus causes coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

Symptoms of the new coronavirus


Common coronaviruses usually cause mild cold symptoms with cough and runny nose. However, certain coronaviruses can also cause serious infections of the lower respiratory tract and lead to pneumonia. The new coronavirus COVID-19 appears to be associated with a more serious course. However, until now, deaths have mainly occurred in patients suffering from underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. People with the new coronavirus mainly suffer from lung complaints and shortness of breath. They also have a fever.

Incubation period

The incubation period of the virus is between 2 and 14 days and you are already contagious during this period.

Dry cough with COVID-19 / Source: Ljupco/

Most common symptoms

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • fatigue


Less common symptoms

Other symptoms that are less common and may occur in some patients include:

  • pain in the body
  • stuffy nose
  • headache
  • conjunctivitis (inflamed mucous membrane or conjunctiva of the eye)
  • a sore throat
  • diarrhea
  • loss of taste or smell
  • skin rash
  • discoloration of fingers or toes

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. However, sometimes the symptoms are severe.

Severe symptoms

Serious symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath, shortness of breath or breathing problems
  • chest pain or pressure
  • impaired speech or movement


Course of COVID-19

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without hospital treatment. About 1 in 5 people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and have breathing difficulties. Older people and people with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes or cancer are at a higher risk of developing serious illness. However, anyone can contract COVID-19 and become seriously ill. People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest, or loss of speech or smell should seek immediate medical attention.

Risk groups

For some people affected, the new coronavirus can lead to a more serious course with respiratory problems and pneumonia. Although serious complications can also occur in people who are healthy, the following groups of people have an increased risk of serious complications:

  • elderly (86 percent of deaths and 19 percent of all cases were 70 years or older)
  • smokers
  • people with pre-existing heart and lung diseases
  • patients with chronic liver disease
  • cancer patients
  • patients with a weakened immune system
  • people who are overweight or obese

In children, the disease appears to be relatively rare and subsequently progresses (very) mildly. According to the WHO, pregnant women do not appear to be at increased risk of developing serious illness.

Spread and contamination

COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. People can get COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease spreads mainly from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which become airborne when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or talks (or sings). These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. People can get COVID-19 if they inhale these droplets from a person infected with the virus. That is why it is important to keep at least 1.5 meters away from others. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. That is why it is important to regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or disinfect them with an alcohol-based solution (70%).

Protection against infections

To prevent the spread of infectious respiratory diseases, good hand, cough and sneeze hygiene should be observed and you should keep your distance from infected persons, especially in regions with cases of illness due to the new coronavirus. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Dutch government has announced all kinds of measures.
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 are:

  • clean your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose
  • sneeze or cough into your elbow
  • keep at least 1.5 meters away from others


Treatment of COVID-19

As of 2023, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19. The treatment is mainly aimed at reducing your complaints. Paracetamol is the drug of choice for pain and fever.
For other coronaviruses, such as MERS-CoV, some substances are currently being tested as part of scientific research. Supportive treatment of the infection, depending on the severity of the disease, is very effective. These include, for example, administering oxygen, supporting fluid balance and possibly administering antibiotics to treat accompanying bacterial infections.

Vaccination / Source: Production Perig/


Vaccination against COVID-19 provides the best preventive protection against infection, serious illness, death and long-term consequences of the disease.

Risk of contamination via food or items

Is there a risk of becoming infected with the new type of coronavirus through imported food or items from China? Infection via imported goods is very unlikely, because the virus must still be active after the long journey. It is unknown whether the new coronavirus can survive for several days in liquid or dried material. To date, there is no evidence of infections caused by imported goods or food.

Wearing a mask or face covering

Wearing a mask or face covering will help somewhat if the virus is transmitted by large droplets. But in many cases, masks only work for a short time. It must fit snugly along the nose.

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