While the virus is genetically different, the symptoms of COVID-19 are almost identical to those of the common cold or influenza.

Once you’re infected, you may experience a sore throat, runny nose and a dry cough. For young healthy people in particular, that may be it. Or it may progress to fever, body aches, shortness of breath, and even pneumonia.

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“We know people that have mild to moderate disease tend to get better in two to three weeks, people who have more severe disease, that becomes apparent often by the second week, and it can be three to six weeks before they get better, and they may need extended care in hospital in that time,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

But 81 per cent of all COVID-19 cases so far are mild and outside of Hubei province in China, the death rate is 0.9 per cent, lower than SARS but higher than influenza.

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For kids under nine-years-old, the fatality rate is zero. But it slowly starts to climb the older you get, with people 80 years and older seeing a 14.8 per cent fatality rate.

You’re also at higher risk of death if you already suffer from certain health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

For those experiencing worsening fever and cough, or in need of medical attention, you should call Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 or your doctor to be assessed for possible risk factors and determine whether you should be tested for influenza and/or coronavirus.

While it isn’t believed to be widespread in B.C. yet, because the symptoms are so similar to cold and flu, the best advice is if you feel even mildly sick, stay home.

April Lawrence