Catch these selected key clinical pearls on coronavirus disease (Covid-19)!

Although the Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to evolve and our knowledge of its epidemiology and pathophysiology is still far from complete, you may find the following pearls based on published literature to date useful when discussing this disease with your colleagues or the public. 1-11

  • Age group: Primarily an adult disease. Children (< 15-year-old) account for only a minority of symptomatic patients (<1%); ~50% of patients are between 15-49 years of age with 15% in the ≥ 65 year group. 1
  • Incubation period: A bit longer than seasonal flu. Median 4.0 days (IQR 2.0-7.0 days); an upper range up to 24 days has also been reported. In contrast, for seasonal flu the median incubation period is shorter (median 2.0 days, 1.0-7.0 days. 1,4,11
  • Transmission: Contact, droplet, and possibly airborne. On average each person may transmit Covid-19 virus to 2-3 other persons (vs <2 people for seasonal flu). Unlike SARS or MERS, but more akin to the seasonal flu, asymptomatic persons may also be able to transmit the disease. 4,5,11
  • Comorbid conditions (eg, diabetes, hypertension, COPD…): Present in about 1/3 of reported patients. 1
  • Symptoms 1,5
    • ~80% of patients may be either asymptomatic or have mild disease
    • Fever may be absent in ~50% of patients on presentation but will eventually develop in ~90% of hospitalized patients
    • Cough (2/3 dry) is present in majority (~80%) of cases
    • Rhinorrhea is uncommon (<10%), in contrast to the seasonal influenza
    • GI symptoms (nausea/vomiting/diarrhea) are uncommon by some reports(<10%), but not by others (>30.0%). 12
    • May take 9-12 days from onset of symptoms to severe disease
  • Labs 1
    • Lymphopenia is common (up to ~80%)
    • Abnormal liver function (AST and ALT) is found in about 1/3 of patients
    • C-reactive protein (CRP) is usually elevated (~80% of severe cases)
    • Procalcitonin is usually normal
  • Treatment: Supportive for now. Candidate drugs include remdesivir, lopinavir/ritonavir, chloroquine phosphate, ribavirin and several others.4
  • Mortality: Reported mortality among mostly symptomatic hospitalized cases is ~2.0% (0.9% without comorbidities, 5-10% in those with comorbidities, 50% among critically ill). Overall mortality rates will likely drop as more patients without symptoms or with mild disease are tested. In contrast, 2 other coronavirus diseases, SARS and MERS, have mortality rates of ~9.0% and 36.0%, respectively. 1,4,5


Bonus pearl: Did you know that, Covid-19-infected patients shed the virus in their nasopharyngeal secretions on the average for 12 days, some as long as 24 days?3


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  1. Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of Coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med 2020. First published Feb 28, 220, last updated March 6, 2020.
  2. Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, et al. First case of 2019 novel Coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med 2020; 382:929-36.
  3. Young BE, Ong SWX, Kalimuddin S, et al. Epidemiologic features and clinical course of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore. JAMA. Doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3204. Published online March 3, 2020.
  4. Wang Y, Wang Y, Chen Y, et al. Unique epidemiological and clinical features of the emerging 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) implicate special control measures. J Med Virol 2020. Doi: 10.1002/jmv.25748.
  5. Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19—Navigating the uncharted. N Eng J Med 2020. DOI:10.1056/NEJMe2002387.
  6. Del Rio C, Malani PN. 2019 novel coronavirus—important information for clinicians. JAMA 2020, Feb 5.
  7. Lipsitch M, Swerdlow DL, Finelli L. Defining the epidemiology of Covid-19—studies needed. N Engl J Med 2020. Feb 19. DOI:10.1056/NEJMp2002125.
  8. Morens DM, Daszak P, Taubenberger JK. Escaping Pandora’s box—another novel coronavirus. N Eng J Med 2020. Feb 26. DOI:10.1056/NEJMp2002106.
  9. She J, Jiang J, Ye L, et al. 2019 novel coronavirus of pneumonia in Wuhan, China: merging attack and management strategies. Clin Trans Med 2020;9:19.
  10. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020; 395: 497-506.
  11. Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed asymptomatic carrier transmission of COVID-19. JAMA 2020. Feb 21.
  12. Pan L, Mu M, Yang P, et al. Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms in Hubei, China: a descriptive, cross-sectional, multicenter study. Am j Gastroenterol 2020.
Catch these selected key clinical pearls on coronavirus disease (Covid-19)!

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