Coronavirus symptoms to look for and when they may appear

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (Photo by: IMAGE POINT FR - LPN/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Get

For days, health officials and local politicians urged Americans to reconsider travel plans ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) going so far as to advise against hitting the road to visit family and friends as coronavirus surges to historic levels in some regions.

Still, the TSA reported that there were multiple days leading up to Thanksgiving during which over 1 million travelers were screened at the nation’s airports. Previously, amid the ongoing pandemic, there had only been one day since March that over 1 million travelers were recorded in a single day.

Medical professionals at various hospitals said they are now bracing for a potential influx in coronavirus-related illnesses and hospitalizations as people who were either asymptomatic or did not know they were carrying the coronavirus visited with relatives and friends and used public transportation to travel.

In the event of potential exposure, it's important to know what symptoms to look out for. To start, symptoms of coronavirus may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC. Illness may present as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea, diarrhea and other ailments.

The agency warns that anyone can have mild to severe symptoms, but older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease, or diabetes, seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19.

People who are experiencing trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake and bluish lips or face should seek emergency medical care immediately.

Many of these symptoms are similar to those of influenza, which is also circulating at this time of year. However, there are differences between the two that can help decipher which illness you may be suffering from.

According to the CDC, coronavirus spreads more easily than the influenza virus and causes a more serious illness. It can also take longer before symptoms begin to show when dealing with coronavirus, and people may remain contagious for longer. However, change in or loss of taste or smell is specific to COVID-19, although it may take a test to definitely determine whether the illness you are suffering from is coronavirus or influenza.

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