Pay special attention to that cough this spring. It might not be allergies.
Experts expect many Americans to catch the new coronavirus over the next few weeks and months. Limiting the spread -- and not overwhelming the local hospital system -- may hinge, in part, on knowing what symptoms look like, and how to manage your own case.
Know the symptoms
A first essential step is to know the symptoms most commonly linked to the virus, and to be on high alert for them in yourself and others around you.
Symptoms in many people can be tricky to pick up in the initial days of the illness -- often including body aches, and general malaise, said Dr. Stephen Liang, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at the Washington University School of Medicine. It's not until a little later that more telltale symptoms of the virus usually begin to surface, like a fever, shortness of breath, and a cough.
Track your progress
As soon as symptoms emerge, Liang recommends keeping a diary to track their progression. That includes taking temperature readings and carefully observing whether conditions are getting better or worse, he said.
If symptoms are mild, don't further crowd hospitals -- call your doctor.
"I think getting in contact with your primary care physician would be a great way to start," Liang said.
The vast majority of coronavirus cases -- around 80% -- are mild and will resolve on their own. About 15% of cases are severe; 5% are critical and require visits to an intensive care unit.