Don’t wait for a fever to consult a doctor, stresses Van Gucht
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Don’t wait for a fever to consult a doctor, stresses Van Gucht

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People who suspect they may be infected with the coronavirus should not wait until they develop a fever before consulting a doctor, health officials said during a press conference on Monday.

As fever is a very recognisable symptom that can point to a coronavirus infection, people often wait to consult their doctor until their temperature goes up, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

“However, less than half of people with Covid-19 develop fever,” he said, clarifying that you can have Covid-19 without it. “Fever may be a symptom, but it is absent just as often.”

An infection is often accompanied by flu-like or cold-like symptoms, without the increase in body temperature that many people expect, according to Van Gucht.

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“If you have symptoms such as a dry persistent cough, shortness of breath, sudden loss of smell or taste, or other symptoms of a cold or flu, stay at home,” he stressed again. “Contact your GP for advice, but do not wait for a fever before sounding the alarm.”

Additionally, approximately 20% of people who have been infected still have certain symptoms two months after they have recovered, according to a study by the University of Antwerp.

“Most people recover quickly after one or two weeks, but some have complaints for a longer period of time,” Van Gucht said, adding that prolonged complaints are most often reported by younger women, overweight people and older people.

“Usually this is a feeling of general fatigue, but also persistent shortness of breath, for example when taking the stairs, but muscle aches and concentration problems are also mentioned, as well as a prolonged loss of smell and taste,” he said. “Others also complain of chest pain, recurring bouts of fever, rash and hair loss.”

Certain neurological complaints or memory problems also recur sometimes, and there are sometimes depressive complaints, such as anxiety or mood swings, according to Van Gucht.

“At that point, the virus has already disappeared from the body, but symptoms can persist for longer,” he said, adding that the recovery process is longer for people who have been severely affected, but also occurs in people who had mild forms of the disease.

However, this type of long-term complaints can also occur with infections of other viruses, emphasised Van Gucht. “It is not necessarily a typical phenomenon for Covid-19.”

“There is still a lot of uncertainty, this needs to be examined in long-term studies,” he said. “If you experience persistent complaints, contact your GP and get a good follow-up.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times