A communicable disease is one that is spread from person to person through a few different ways. For example, depending on the type of illness it is, you can develop a communicable disease by breathing in a virus that is airborne, coming into contact with blood and/or bodily fluids from an already infected individual, or even being bitten by an insect. Understanding and reporting cases of communicable diseases is important, especially when it comes to the prevention, control and treatment of them.

One example of a communicable disease is COVID-19. Similar to that of a common cold, COVID-19 can develop as a result of breathing in droplets as a result of an infected individual sneezing, coughing, or exhaling, through direct contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person, or by touching an object that has been contaminated (such as a countertop, doorknob, elevator buttons, etc.) then touching your face (such as the mouth, nose or eyes.) Unlike the common cold, however, which most commonly comes along with symptoms such as nasal congestion, a sore throat, and/or runny nose, the symptoms associated with COVID-19 often differ. Among the most common symptoms reported of COVID-19 are fever, fatigue, dry cough, and pneumonia – though some people have also reported experiencing symptoms similar to that of a common cold, along with general body aches and pains and, in some cases, even diarrhea, as well as loss of taste and smell.

It’s also possible to have COVID-19 without even realizing it, which is why it’s crucial for us to follow the guidelines that have been put forth by health officials – including staying at home as much as possible (especially if you are sick), wearing a mask when out in public, and washing your hands with soap and water frequently. By following these important measures, we’re doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus and flatten the curve that we’ve heard so much about.

Then there is the incubation period. This is what refers to the time in which you are exposed to a virus, and when you will start developing symptoms. The incubation period of a common cold, for example, is typically between 1 and 3 days. With COVID-19, however, there seem to be more challenges in determining this. For example, it isn’t always possible to know when someone was first infected with the virus, and there seems to be a wide range of variation in the length of time in which it is reported that people develop symptoms (the current estimated range is from 2 to 14 days.) In some cases, only individuals with severe symptoms are being tested for the virus itself, meaning the incubation period for those with mild to moderate infections will also differ – although it’s recommended that anyone with symptoms, even if mild, be tested for COVID-19.

Then there is the progression of symptoms. If your symptoms are mild, such as a low-grade fever, then this is likely to settle within a few days and you’ll start to feel better. If you have a cough, even if it is mild, this can persist for several weeks. In individuals who have symptoms that are more severe, such as shortness of breath, this can worsen after 7 to 10 days of first developing symptoms. This is because the infection gets into the lungs and causes inflammation, which then prevents enough oxygen from being able to get to them. In cases where symptoms are severe, you may also require hospitalization. With mild to moderate symptoms, 4 in 5 people with coronavirus are expected to make full recoveries. It’s also important to note that regardless of how healthy you are, the risk of developing coronavirus isn’t non-existent, therefore you need to ensure that you are continuing to do your part to not just keep yourself and your family protected, but keeping your community protected as well.