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What you need to know about new Covid-19 symptoms


What health experts know about Covid-19 is changing rapidly and so there is a need to constantly update ourselves about the virus, writes Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi.

File image. Photo: IANS

What health experts know about Covid-19 is changing rapidly and there is a need to constantly update ourselves about the virus.

The current debate among health experts is whether the virus is airborne, existing in finer air particles expelled from our mouths which can transfer the virus far beyond 2 metres, and linger in the air for hours.

Speaking to Radio 702 professor Salim Abdool Karim said that if you had asked him two weeks ago whether the coronavirus could cause diabetes, he would have said absolutely not.

However, at least three papers show that this has happened in some patients where the virus has spread to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

“It’s rare, but the virus is able to attack those cells and kill them, causing diabetes. It’s not related to whether you have any pre-existing diabetes, or you’re pre-diabetic: this happens in individuals where the virus has been able to spread through the entire body,” Karim said.

“This only happens in a very small fraction (of patients) – but when it does, we are only now learning of the full spectrum of disease it causes.”

Dr Jantjie Taljaard, infectious disease specialist at Tygerberg Hospital said Covid-19 can present in three different ways:

Classic symptoms

As described in China in January – dry cough, fever, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing are common among patients admitted to hospital. However other less severe symptoms are also common including severe headache, sore throat, loss of smell and/or taste and diarrhoea. Very severe pneumonia can develop in a small percentage of people leading to decreased oxygen levels in the blood and even respiratory failure.

Atypical symptoms

Some patients may present with complications of their underlying chronic conditions e.g. diabetic coma, stroke, heart attack, clotting in leg veins or veins in the lungs or epilepsy.


No symptoms at all but tests positive – estimated to be around 20 percent of all people infected.

Researchers from the university assessed the neurological symptoms of 43 patients hospitalised in the UK with either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infection. They found 10 cases of temporary brain dysfunction, 12 cases of brain inflammation, eight strokes and eight cases of nerve damage.

While most infected people continue to experience mild illness and to be able to recover at home without medical care when they contact the virus: the death toll from the virus is staggering and even frightening.

We spoke to Dr Tshidi Gule who is treating Covid-19 positive patients in isolation hotels and the founder of MediSpace Lifestyle Institute about the new Covid-19 symptoms.  

What are the new symptoms of the coronavirus?

The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention has been keeping up-to-date with symptoms from around the world that relate to Covid-19. It’s important to stress that people with Covid-19 present with a wide range of symptoms and they often appear within two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. 

The new symptoms – for lack of a better term – that have been reported and added on to the list include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. 

This is in addition to the more common symptoms that are known such as a fever and chills, a dry cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, a new loss of taste or smell, as well as congestion and a runny nose. 

It’s also important to stress that this list does not include all possible symptoms and that most of the symptoms listed under Covid-19 are listed purely when it relates to a significant number of people exhibiting the same thing. 

These same symptoms also show up in relation to other viral illnesses so it’s important that the public does not start confusing a normal runny nose from – for example – allergies with suspicion of it being Covid-19.

What are some of the common ages that are starting show more of the virus symptoms? 

The most common age groups that tend to exhibit symptoms of the virus or contract the infection are what we call the productive age group, in other words people between the ages of 30 and 69 is the largest category of individuals that exhibit the symptoms of Covid-19 or tend to contract the virus more readily than other age groups. 

The age group between 60 and 69 are showing the highest numbers to date, however, the trend is starting to show that more people under 50 years of age are starting the contract the virus which is a reflection of the economy being more active and that particular age group being more mobile.

Who is as the risk of dying from the virus?

The category most at risk from complications brought on by the virus tend to be people who have co-morbid diseases. These diseases may range from lifestyle-related conditions and immune system-related conditions. 

To be specific, individuals that have hypertension and diabetes tend to have the highest risk of developing complications from Covid-19 and also face a higher risk of death due to the virus. 

It’s important to stress that if anyone has conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, any cancer, HIV, tuberculosis is at risk of suffering from complications brought on by the virus, which do include death.