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Coronavirus: Symptoms of infection and treatment

Since this is a novel virus, there is as yet no detailed information on the course of the disease; however, the data available thus far show that approximately 80% of cases seem to be mild, while about 20% of cases are more severe. The reported mortality rate of the virus is estimated at around 2%. Most victims were elderly and suffered from other chronic diseases.
Symptoms of the disease include feeling unwell, fatigue, cold symptoms, fever, coughing, and in more severe cases shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia.

Symptoms of the disease include feeling unwell, fatigue, cold symptoms, fever, coughing, and in more severe cases shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia.

Novel coronavirus infections cannot be distinguished from other acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, solely on the basis of the course of the disease and the patient’s problems. Microbiological testing is required to confirm or exclude the new coronavirus infection. In Slovenia, such testing is performed by the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology of the Faculty of Medicine.

Although the precise incubation period is not yet known, the estimate based on other coronaviruses and preliminary information is 2 to 12 days, probably not more than 14 days. The average duration of the incubation period is around 6 days. 

COVID-19 is transmitted between humans via respiratory droplets that people sneeze or cough. This means that close contact with an infected person is required for transmission, with the distance to the patient being less than 1.5 m. There is no reliable evidence yet that the novel coronavirus is transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces.

There is also no evidence that the virus is airborne (transmitted via aerosols).

Testing process

In Slovenia, tests are made on persons with respiratory infections who need hospital treatment, and persons with mild respiratory infections: 

  • who are over 60 years of age,
  • who have co-morbidities (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal and severe hepatic diseases), 
  • who have immune deficiencies, regardless of their age. 

Slovenia has set up 16 entry points for swabbing (health centres Murska Sobota, Maribor, Slovenj Gradec, Koper, Ljubljana, Postojna, Kočevje, Velenje, Trbovlje, Brežice, Novo Mesto, Jesenice, Kranj, Nova Gorica and Tolmin, Celje General Hospital and Šempeter Hospital), where persons suspected of coronavirus infection are treated solely on the basis of a medical referral from a personal or on-call doctor. 

The patient's first contact remains their chosen personal physician or emergency service if their physician is not available. 

Therefore, a patient suspected of having the coronavirus first calls their personal physician. After talking with the patient and consulting a local epidemiologist, the physician will consider whether the suspicion is justified or not. If they decide that the suspicion is justified, the patient will be advised by phone to which of the 16 swabbing points they should report. 

Treatment

Treatment of the coronavirus infection is directed at relieving symptoms as thus far there is no medicine or vaccine. Existing medications are used to relieve the patient's discomfort (e.g. reduce fever), while more severe cases require supportive treatments such as mechanical breathing assistance, the administration of oxygen, and adding fluids to support lung functioning.

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