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The Top 7 COVID-19 Symptoms, Ranked by Prevalence

May 05, 2020

Initial COVID-19 symptoms vary, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most people with a coronavirus infection will experience:

  • Fever (83-99 percent).
  • Cough (59-82 percent).
  • Fatigue (44-70 percent).
  • Anorexia (40-84 percent).
  • Shortness of breath (31-40 percent).
  • Sputum production (28-33 percent).
  • Muscle aches (11-35 percent).

The CDC says in a study of 1,099 hospitalized patients, only 44 percent had a fever when admitted to the hospital. While hospitalized, however, 89 percent later developed a fever. There’s also no predictable progression of symptoms: Older adults and people with preexisting medical conditions, for example, might develop fever and respiratory symptoms later than others.

Less common symptoms:

  • Headache.
  • Confusion.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood).

The CDC last month also added these possible COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Chills that cause prolonged shaking.
  • Loss of taste or smell.

Children usually experience milder symptoms than adults. But children are showing resilience to COVID-19. A National Institutes of Health study announced this week will help determine the percentage of children infected with COVID-19 who develop symptoms.

The study, Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2 (HEROS), will recruit 6,000 people from 2,000 families in 11 United States cities. Researchers will track the children and their families for six months, with twice-monthly nasal swabs samples from the child study participant and other family members. The study will also examine the infection rate of children who have asthma or allergic conditions.

More immediately, public officials must determine if children pose a risk to adults. Gov. Ned Lamont has already closed Connecticut schools for the rest of the academic year. Available research would seem to support the move: In a study of two China cities published last week in the journal Science, children were found about one-third as susceptible to COVID-19 as adults were but were essentially equally likely as adults to get the disease at school, where they had about three times as many contacts with adults.

New York City health officials are also investigating more than a dozen cases of an unusual inflammatory syndrome, possibly linked to COVID-19, in patients ages 2 to 15 years old.

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