UC Davis Health is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information on novel coronavirus symptoms. Learn which COVID-19 symptoms you should be on the lookout for first and how symptoms might present differently for this virus and the flu:

What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus?

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with one or many of these symptoms in any combinations may have COVID-19:

  • fever or chills
  • dry coughs
  • shortness of breath associated with respiratory illness
  • muscle pain or body ache
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting

While typical of COVID-19, these all may be symptoms of some other illness, too. Call your primary care provider if you experience symptoms and believe you have been in close contact with a person known to have novel coronavirus.

What symptoms are likely to show up first to indicate COVID-19 infection?

The earliest symptoms of novel coronavirus will most likely be a fever, followed by a cough and muscle pain, according to a study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal. Next, infected people will possibly experience nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. Initial COVID-19 symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as MERS and SARS. However, with COVID-19, patients are more likely to develop nausea and vomiting before diarrhea, which is the opposite order from MERS and SARS, the UCS researchers said.

Are there any COVID-19 warning signs that tell when to seek emergency medical care?

If someone is showing these symptoms, you should seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • trouble breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion
  • inability to wake or stay awake
  • bluish lips or face

This is not a complete list of possibly symptoms. Call your primary care provider for any other symptoms that seem severe or are a concern to you.

How can you tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and they have similar symptoms. It may be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone, but there are two key differences, according to the CDC:

  • Those infected with COVID-19 sometimes experience change in or loss of taste and smell, which is not a symptom of the flu.
  • The USC researchers said the flu usually begins with a cough, whereas COVID-19 most often starts with a fever.
  • People infected with flu typically develop symptoms 1-4 days after infection, while those with COVID-19 typically develop symptoms 5 days after being infected but can show symptoms as early as 2 days or as late as 14 days after infection.