Symptoms and Signs of Coronavirus (COVID-19 [2019-nCoV], SARS, MERS)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/12/2022

Doctor's Notes on Coronavirus (COVID-19 [2019-nCoV], SARS, MERS)

Coronavirus (COVID-19, 2019-nCoV) is an RNA coronavirus found in late 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan. It causes moderate to severe respiratory problems in humans. It is contagious and spreads from person to person. Signs and symptoms vary in intensity; other viruses and types are similar. Infected people initially may have flu-like symptoms that can rapidly progress in severity. The primary signs and symptoms of moderate to severe infections are as follows:

  • Fevers
  • Severe coughing
  • Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath
  • Occasional diarrhea
  • Some patients develop pneumonia and/or organ failure (for example, kidney failure and death).
  • Some patients have long-term problems with some symptoms.

Wuhan coronavirus is related to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

Infection with coronavirus (COVID-19) may cause severe viral pneumonia. Unfortunately, many people who become infected require hospitalization for supportive care. There is no specific drug or vaccine against this virus. Some patients require hospital-based respiratory supportive care. This hospital-based care can rapidly run out if the outbreak is not slowed or stopped. In the Wuhan outbreak, China and many other countries are using quarantine measures to help slow or stop the spread of 2019-nCoV and its subtypes delta and omicron. We are in the second year of a serious pandemic. Over 800,000 people in the U.S. have died as of December 2021.

What Are the Treatments for Coronavirus Infection?

The best treatments are prevention of infection and/or reduction of severity of symptoms to prevent hospitalization by appropriate vaccinations and booster shots, if indicated. Wearing masks, especially indoors where people may gather and avoiding contact (6 foot apart rule), may reduce the risk for infection. Also, guidelines for treatments and vaccines are rapidly changing; for up-to-date information, see However, treatment options include the following but are subject to revision or addition at any time:

  • Convalescent plasma therapy
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Oxygen and possibly ventilation assistance
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antivirals (in development; an oral pill is pending approval)
  • Clinical trials (in progress)

Your doctors will design supportive care as needed by your condition.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.