What are the main clinical characteristics of COVID-19?

Bottom Line:

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, shortness of breath, with a smaller subset of people having gastrointestinal symptoms. The virus can cause inflammation in the lungs, and can be transmitted directly from person to person, or through objects and materials that have the virus on them. Handwashing and other forms of protection can help to reduce the spread of the disease.


Jiang, F. et al. Review of the Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Journal of General Internal Medicine (2020). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-05762-w.

Date Published

4 March 2020


The main clinical symptoms that patients testing positive for COVID-19 are fever (in 90%+ cases), cough (75% of cases), and shortness of breath (up to 50% of cases). A smaller subset of people had gastrointestinal symptoms. In the cases of death, the most common causes were acute respiratory distress syndrome, injury to the kidney, and injury to the heart. Although there is currently some uncertainty about the exact mechanisms of virus transmission, it is believed that the virus can be transmitted directly from person to person, as well as through certain materials which the virus is able to live on. In order to reduce the chance of transmission, washing hands and utilizing specific protective gear is suggested to minimize contact. Additionally, the WHO has estimated that vaccines will be released in approximately 18 months. However, the current treatment for those with the virus is aimed at reducing the symptoms and supporting the patient. Certain antiviral medications, anti-inflammatory treatments, as well as mechanical ventilation have been utilized by healthcare professionals

Summary by: Max Solish.