The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Updated 7 May 2020

The virus and the illness

The virus and the illness

  • Listen

    In most people, COVID-19 manifests as a respiratory tract infection, and many different symptoms may be present. It is not possible to distinguish COVID-19 from other infections from only the symptoms – a laboratory test is required.

    Among the reported symptoms are:

    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Runny nose
    • Blocked nose
    • Sore throat
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Muscle and joint pain
    • Loss of smell and taste
    • Diarrhoea

    Most people get mild symptoms and can recover at home without professional medical care. The symptoms often appear gradually. Some people get a severe form of the illness, with breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

    The list of symptoms may be adjusted over time, since we update our information as new knowledge becomes available, e.g. in scientific studies or from the WHO.

    The time between getting infected and developing symptoms (the incubation period) seems to be between 2 and 14 days. Most people develop symptoms after 5 days.

    It is very important that you stay at home if you feel ill. If you can no longer manage the illness on your own, please call 1177 for medical advice (available in English).

    Updated: 11/16/2020 3:31:45 PM

  • Listen

    The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19 is mainly transmitted between people via respiratory droplets or secretions from the respiratory tract. Transmission via droplets happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or breathes out and the droplets reach mucous tissue in someone's eyes, nose, or mouth.

    The virus can be transmitted via contaminated surfaces, so-called indirect contact transmission, but the risk of getting infected via contaminated surfaces is considered to be low.

    It is currently not clear how long the virus can survive on surfaces and items. The material itself and conditions in the surrounding such as humidity, temperature, and sunlight will determine how long the virus is viable. Further studies will clarify the importance of transmission via surfaces and items for the overall spread of COVID-19.

    You can decrease the risk of transmission by keeping a distance from other people in public spaces, washing your hands often with soap and warm water, avoiding touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth), and by staying at home if you are ill.

    Updated: 11/9/2020 1:12:45 PM

  • Listen

    The incubation period, i.e. the time between getting infected and developing symptoms, seems to be between 2 and 14 days.

    Most people develop symptoms after around 5 days, but individual cases may deviate from this pattern.

    Updated: 5/18/2020 1:32:40 PM

  • Listen

    Globally, it is estimated that 0.5–1 percent of those who are infected with COVID-19 die. There is a clear relationship between increased fatality risk and older age: the older you are, the higher the risk.

    There are only a few peer-reviewed studies of the infection fatality rate of COVID-19, i.e. the share of infected who die, which means that this might change as new knowledge becomes available.

    A study by The Public Health Agency of Sweden estimates the fatality rate in the Stockholm region to 0.6 percent, for all ages. The fatality rate among those 70 years or older is 4.3 percent, whereas it is 0.1 percent among those younger than 70 years.

    The infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in Stockholm – Technical report

    Updated: 5/13/2020 11:26:54 AM

  • Listen

    If you have had COVID-19, you have some protection against reinfection. This means that you are less likely to become infected and seriously ill, and less likely to infect others if you are exposed to the virus again. Over time, the protection that you get after an infection wanes and there is an increased risk of getting infected again. At present, we estimate that the protection after having had COVID-19 lasts at least six months from the time of infection.

    Updated: 12/9/2020 9:43:33 AM

  • Listen

    Yes, smoking increases the risk of severe illness with COVID-19, according to available studies.

    The fact that tobacco smoking increases the risk of severe symptoms during respiratory tract infections is already well-known from e.g. seasonal influenza.

    Some health benefits of giving up smoking appear quickly, for example increased oxygenation of the blood, lower blood pressure, and improved pulmonary function. For advice and support to stop smoking, contact Sluta-Röka-Linjen (information etc. is available in English and other languages).

    New information and data is added continuously, and the Public Health Agency monitors the situation and updates its advice accordingly.

    Updated: 7/1/2020 12:23:07 PM