COVID-19, symptoms and treatment, origins of the new coronavirus

What are the symptoms of COVID-19, and how might the illness progress? Can it be treated? What do you have to beware of if you have symptoms? And where did the new coronavirus first appear? Find out here.

Symptoms of coronavirus disease

The most common symptoms are (in alphabetic order):

  • Cough (usually dry)
  • High temperature, feverishness
  • Muscle ache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Sudden loss of sense of smell and/or taste

More rarely:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Head cold
  • Headache

Symptoms of illness can vary in severity and can even be mild. Complications, such as pneumonia, are also possible.

But if you have one or more of the more common symptoms, it is quite possible that you have contracted the new coronavirus.

This means you should:

  • Stay at home.
  • Take the coronavirus check or call your doctor. Answer all the questions in the online check or that you are asked on the phone as best as you can. At the end you will be given a recommendation as to what to do next and, if necessary, be instructed to get yourself tested.
  • Read the instructions under Isolation and quarantine and then follow them closely.

Range of illness severity

The way the new coronavirus disease progresses can vary widely. Some people may have no symptoms or barely notice that they are ill. Others require intensive care in hospital.

No symptoms

There are people who become infected without displaying any symptoms. They are unaware that they have become infected and can therefore pass on the new coronavirus to others without realising it.

Mild cases

A significant majority of people who become infected experience a mild form of the disease. This means they experience symptoms, but that these remain mild. This is often the case in people who are healthy and under the age of 65.

Serious cases

In serious cases, the symptoms are mild at first, but deteriorate after around five to ten days. Patients can develop shortness of breath and pneumonia. In such cases, the person requires hospital treatment, in many cases with supplemental oxygen.

The illness generally lasts one to four weeks. With proper medical treatment, patients usually make a full recovery. They are then believed to be immune from renewed infection.

People can become seriously ill at any age, although it is extremely rare in children and young people. People at especially high risk are more likely to experience serious illness.

Critical cases

In a small number of people, the respiratory symptoms deteriorate to such an extent that they require intensive care; they require mechanical respiration to support the functioning of the lungs.

Most of those affected survive the disease thanks to the timely provision of intensive care and recover within a few weeks. They are then believed to be immune from renewed infection.

According to information currently available, between 1 to 2% of those who have tested positive for the disease subsequently die of the illness.

Can the illness be treated?

At the moment there is no specific treatment for the disease caused by the coronavirus. Treatment is limited to easing the symptoms.

Symptoms from a coronavirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not against viruses.


On 11 February 2020 the WHO gave the disease caused by the new coronavirus an official name: COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019.

What is the new coronavirus?

The coronavirus epidemic in China probably originated at a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where bats, snakes and other wild animals were traded alongside fish. The virus was transmitted to humans via animals, probably bats or indirectly via pangolins. Since then the virus has been transmitted from person to person. The Chinese authorities closed the market at the beginning of January.

The new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, belongs to the same family of viruses as six other known coronaviruses that we have known about for years or even decades. Four of these are human coronaviruses, which generally cause mild winter colds.

Other known coronaviruses include:

  • the SARS virus, SARS-CoV-1, identified in southern China in 2003 and transmitted to humans from civets and
  • the MERS virus, identified in 2012 on the Arabian peninsula and transmitted to humans from dromedaries.

SARS and MERS are serious acute respiratory diseases with a high rate of mortality of around 10 and 35 per cent respectively. By comparison, the mortality rate of the new coronavirus in Switzerland is currently below around 3 per cent.

Coronaviruses are enveloped RNA viruses (RNA = Ribonucleic acid). This means that they have a lipid membrane (greasy film), which can be dissolved with soap and water or disinfectant, thereby inactivating the virus.

Do you have a health complaint unrelated to the new coronavirus? Contact your doctor

Are you feeling unwell or experiencing a severe or persistent health complaint that you don’t believe is related to the new coronavirus? Are you worried? Then contact your doctor. Seek medical advice or treatment. This is important for your health. That also applies for your children or other family members.

Medical practices and hospitals have put in place the necessary precautionary measures to protect their patients safely. You can therefore use their services without fear of infection.

Do not delay if you or someone close to you has a mild complaint or one that is getting worse. Contact your doctor. Call ahead if you want to go directly to a hospital.

Further information

Situation in Switzerland

Data on confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and deaths, the epidemiological situation, information about the tracing app, the search for antibodies, the advisory body, press conferences and news can all be found here.

New coronavirus: Contact information and links

New coronavirus: Infoline phone numbers, links to federal and cantonal authority websites and other useful websites.

Downloads in various languages

How to protect yourself and others: here you can find a series of posters, videos and instructions to download and share. They are available in a wide range of languages, incl. the languages of Switzerland’s migrant population.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the new coronavirus

Do you have any questions regarding the risk of infection, travel and tourism, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and protecting yourself from infection? You will find many answers here.

Last modification 25.05.2020

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Are you experiencing symptoms? Take the coronavirus check! Click here.