From suspected infection to isolation
What should I do if I suspect I may be infected with the novel coronavirus? Here you will find information on how to handle symptoms of COVID-19, what to do in a suspected case of novel coronavirus, as well as information on quarantine and isolation.
Many people are currently wondering what to do in the event of a possible infection with the novel coronavirus. What should you do if, for example, you suddenly experience typical symptoms such as coughing and fever? Or if you find out that a colleague you recently worked with has tested positive for COVID-19? You should not impulsively go to your doctor or to the hospital, because there you might risk infecting others should you really be infected yourself. Here we explain what to do if you notice symptoms and when you should go into quarantine or self-isolate.
What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus?
A dry cough and fever are among the most frequent symptoms. However, a series of additional symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a cold, muscle and joint pain, a sore throat and headaches are also possible. Symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, swollen lymph nodes and drowsiness (somnolence) have been reported less often. Many of those affected temporarily lose their sense of taste and smell. In cases with a severe progression, affected persons develop pneumonia and need to be hospitalised for intensive care.
However, these symptoms and their manifestation vary from patient to patient. Yet some infections are completely asymptomatic.
What should you do if you suspect you are infected with the novel coronavirus?
From the moment you notice you are experiencing symptoms that often accompany COVID-19, you should self-quarantine at home. Reduce your contact with other persons to the bare minimum, so as not to expose them to the risk of infection. Get in touch with your doctor by phone. Outside of normal surgery opening hours, you can also call the on-duty medical service by dialling the number 0800 0000837 from anywhere in Germany. Your doctor will decide whether you should be tested for the novel coronavirus and whether, based on your symptoms, you should be treated at a hospital or as an outpatient.
However, do not hesitate to seek medical advice should your medical symptoms worsen (difficulty breathing, high fever). In case of emergency, dial 112.
The Robert Koch Institute has published an overview that summarises how to respond to possible symptoms. The orientation aid can be found here.
Have you had close contact with an infected person? Contact the public health office
How close your contact with an infected person was, or the length of time you spent with him/her in a closed room, is decisive for the transmission of the novel coronavirus. The novel coronavirus is transmitted above all, via droplet infection and aerosols, especially when coughing, sneezing and speaking. You can find additional information on possible modes of transmission here. If you have had contact with a person who was laboratory-confirmed as having the novel coronavirus, get in touch with your local public health office (Gesundheitsamt) immediately, regardless of symptoms. Based on an individual consultation, the public health office can recommend specific measures and decide on necessary further steps. Go home immediately and stay there.
Remain self-quarantined until you receive your test results
Depending on test centre workload, test results should be available within 24 to 48 hours. For further information on the test procedure, please read our article on tests. If you have symptoms or had contact with an infected person, you must self-quarantine while awaiting your test result.
Until you receive your test result, the other members of your household and your colleagues, with whom you had recent contact, are not required to self-quarantine – unless ordered to do so by the public health office.
Quarantine is always required in cases where it is unclear whether someone has become infected, either through contact with an infected person or after returning from a risk area. The COVID-19 incubation time, that is the time between infection and the first positive test or the first symptoms, can be up to 14 days. This is why, as a rule, a 14-day quarantine is required. During this period, you may not leave the house, not even to take a walk. During this time, you are also not allowed to be receive visits from persons who are not members of your household.
Self-isolation at home in the event of a positive coronavirus test
If you test positive for the novel coronavirus and do not need hospitalisation as your disease progression is not severe, you will be required to self-isolate at home. As a rule, this will last for 10 days, but can vary depending on the duration and the severity of the disease. If you live with your family, or in shared accommodation, be careful to restrict your contact with other members of the household so as to avoid possible transmission of the virus. You can achieve this by being careful to separate yourself from other members of the household. Try as far as possible not to spend time in the same rooms, observe the hygiene rules and air on a regular basis. In some situations, such as when using community rooms, wearing a community mask can prove useful.
When may quarantine or isolation be ended?
The decision as to whether quarantine or self-isolation may be ended is taken by the competent public health office; in the case of infected persons this is done in coordination with the person responsible for their medical treatment. In the case of persons who are in quarantine because they are suspected of being infected, this measure is usually lifted after 14 days, if they show no signs of disease.
Isolation can only be ended if it is certain that the patient is no longer able to infect other persons. This is the case at the earliest after 10 days and following at least 48 hours without any disease symptoms.
Use the Corona-Warn-App
If you have received a positive test result, please enter this result into the Corona-Warn-App. This will make it possible for persons who spent time in your vicinity to be informed that they have had a risk encounter. This only works if you had already activated the app at the time of the encounter. You should therefore install the app when you are still healthy. The app supports the work done by the public health office by identifying contact persons who might need to self-quarantine. This enables chains of infection to be identified and interrupted faster, relieves the strain on the public health system and makes it possible to control the novel coronavirus more quickly.
The app can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store and from Google Play.