Coronavirus Covid-19: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

Discovered in China in December 2019, the new coronavirus is now present in around fifty countries and on five continents, raising fears of a pandemic. It causes a form of pneumonia, more or less severe depending on the case. What are the signs ? How to diagnose it? Can we cure it? All the answers to your questions. 


  1. What is the new coronavirus?
  2. Where is he from ?
  3. What is the mode of transmission?
  4. What are the symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus?
  5. How is the disease diagnosed?
  6. What is the treatement ?
  7. What are the recommendations to prevent infection?

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What is the new coronavirus?

The coronavirus  (nicknamed CoV) are a family of more or less severe viruses: according to the government website, they can cause simple colds or more serious diseases such as respiratory syndrome Middle East (MERS) and acute respiratory syndrome severe (SARS) . Today, we know six species. The new coronavirus discovered in 2019 has been named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, CoVid-19.

Where is he from ?

SARS-CoV-2 was first discovered in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in the province of Hubei. Experts agree that the source of this virus is animal: the first cases identified had in fact all gone to the Huanan Seafood Market, a fish and seafood market where live animals were also sold.

A thesis all the more likely since the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 and that of MERS in 2012 were respectively associated with civets and dromedaries. If the animal responsible for the transmission of the new coronavirus to humans has not yet been identified, several avenues have been raised, in particular those of the bat, the snake and the pangolin.

What is the mode of transmission?

Human-to-human, that is, person-to-person, transmission was quickly confirmed. The disease is transmitted  through the respiratory tract, through the postillions (sneezing, coughing) . The Government explains that “it is considered that close contact with a sick person is necessary to transmit the disease: same place of life, direct contact within one meter during a cough, sneeze or discussion in the absence of protective measures “.

No other mode of transmission has so far been identified. It is therefore unlikely that the disease is transmitted by water, or by packages from China, as feared by some people.


In Hong Kong, authorities announced on February 28 the first case of a dog that tested positive for coronavirus . It was his mistress who contaminated him. However, he has no symptoms (asymptomatic case). Conversely, there is currently no evidence of contamination of humans by domestic animals.

The National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) published a report on March 11 in which it confirms that ” there is no evidence that pets play a role. in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes this disease . ” It specifies that ” if the genome of the virus was detected in the nasal and oral cavities of a dog in contact with an infected patient in Hong Kong,  the detection of the genome  is  not sufficient evidence to conclude that an infection of the animal. a passive contamination is not excluded , especially due to the possible survival of the virus on a wet mucosa not necessarily be replicated . ”  


ANSES also explains in its report that “a possible transmission by a food necessarily implies the contamination of this food by a patient or a person infected by the virus, during its handling or the preparation of the meal “. Hence the importance of following good hygiene and cooking practices: this virus is ” sensitive to cooking temperatures “, ” a  heat treatment at 63 ° C for 4 minutes  will cut 10,000 contamination of a food product “.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus?

The symptoms of CoVid-19 are all the more difficult to spot because they resemble those of the flu  : fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The most severe forms of infection with the new coronavirus can also result in acute respiratory distress , acute renal failure or potentially fatal multi-visceral failure. The incubation period, i.e. the time between contamination and the onset of the first symptoms, is 14 days . The Chinese authorities have nevertheless reported the case of a septuagenarian who developed the symptoms 27 days after the contamination.

In addition, a recent  Chinese study affirms that the mutations undergone by the virus led to the development of two distinct strains: the S strain (the original one and which represents 30% of the cases) and the L strain, more aggressive and representing 70 % of cases. This could be the cause of myocarditis  observed by doctors in infected people in Iran, the third focal point of the epidemic after China and South Korea.

How is the disease diagnosed?

In the event of suspected coronavirus infection, people are invited to call the Samu directly (15) and not to go to the emergency room or their doctor , at the risk of infecting other people. The Samu then gets in touch with an infectious disease specialist. A questionnaire will classify the patient in a possible or excluded case. If it is considered a possible case, it will be “ taken care of and isolated in an infectious diseases department ”, explains the government’s portal on the coronavirus.

As indicated by the Ministry of Health in its guide to “CoVid-19 epidemic risk preparation”, the diagnostic tests, developed by the Pasteur Institute, are as follows:

  • “ Systematic sampling of the upper respiratory tract (nasopharyngeal / Virocult® swabs or aspirations);
  • A sample of the lower respiratory tract (sputum, LBA, ATB) in case of parenchymal involvement;
  • Systematic blood collection from a tube;
  • A stool sample in case of diarrhea. 

These tests are carried out in the 38 authorized healthcare establishments . ” Several thousand can be carried out every day , specifies the government. The delay to have a result is between three and five hours “.

In a press release  published on March 9, the Ministry of Health announced that ” urban health professionals will be the first actors in health management when we are in stage 3 “. A decree will thus ” soften the conditions for carrying out telemedicine ” and lift the obligation to go through your doctor. ” Each patient can benefit from a teleconsultation if necessary “.

What is the treatement ?

To date, there is no  specific treatment for CoVid-19 . The treatment of cases is only symptomatic (treatment of fever, congestion or possible pain). The government explains that ” several treatments are being evaluated in France, in conjunction with the WHO [World Health Organization, Editor’s note] to be used against the Coronavirus CoVid-19 “. Dozens of existing antiviral molecules, such as chloroquine for malaria , lopinavir and ritonavir for HIV and ribavirin for hepatitis C, are being tested. According to a study, lopinavir and arbidol, used in Russia and China for influenza, seem to show particularly satisfactory results.

Several teams of researchers around the world are currently studying the development of a vaccine. In France, the Institut Pasteur is working on it. But “ all these clinical trials take a long time , explained Christophe d’Enfert, scientific director of the institute at a press conference given on Friday, January 31 . We hope to make it available within 20 months . ”

However, it should be noted that the mortality rate from infection with the new coronavirus remains low (between 2 and 3%) and that among the more than 83,000 confirmed cases, almost 37,000 are considered to be cured.

What are the recommendations to prevent infection?

The government has issued health directives to prevent CoVid-19 infection. These are valid for all other types of respiratory infection:

  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Cough or sneeze into his elbow;
  • Use disposable tissues;
  • Wear a mask when you are sick, its effectiveness has not been demonstrated on non sick people.

People returning from a risk zone (China, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, Lombardy and Veneto regions in Italy) must, during the 14 days following their return:

  • Monitor their temperature twice a day;
  • Monitor the appearance of symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, difficulty breathing, etc.);
  • Wear a surgical mask when they are in front of another person and when they have to go out;
  • Wash your hands regularly or use a hydroalcoholic solution;
  • Avoid contact with frail people (pregnant women, the chronically ill, the elderly, etc.);
  • Avoid frequenting places where there are fragile people (hospitals, maternity hospitals, accommodation structures for the elderly, etc.);
  • Avoid any non-essential outing (large gatherings, restaurants, cinema, etc.);
  • Workers / students: wherever possible, favor teleworking and avoid close contact (meetings, elevators, canteen, etc.);
  • Children, middle school students, high school students should not be sent to nursery, school, college or high school, given the difficulty in wearing a mask all day.


by Abdullah Sam
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