"A very minor cold." What it's like to have COVID-19 and why no one wants to talk about it.


When putting together a podcast episode about what it’s really like to have COVID-19, Mamamia‘s news podcast The Quicky hit many, many roadblocks.

For days, the team trawled through interviews, news and social media to find someone who had had the coronavirus to speak about their experience.

After reaching out to many, the team received one common response: Nobody wanted to speak about their experience, because being identified as having COVID-19 opened them up to public criticism, shunning and abuse.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Post continues below video.

Video via WHO

It’s an experience echoed by Californian man Carl Goldman, who caught the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

“Some people are freaking out, they’re saying ‘Well don’t come see me for a month’,” he told the BBC.

“The poor kid who watched our dog went back to his job and got fired that day because he’d been in contact with my wife [who does not have the virus]. So there’s a lot of unnecessary hysteria out here and I just would urge everybody to chill a bit, use some common sense.”


So, what happens when you have coronavirus? The Quicky explains. Post continues below video.

What does it feel like to have coronavirus?

Goldman said his experience of coronavirus was “mild”.

“Other than my very high temperature and the dry cough that persists, it was totally mild, not like a regular cold where you sneeze, sniffle, have a sore throat – none of that. I didn’t even get body aches, I did not get chills and heavy sweating when I had my high fever. I would rank it as a very minor cold.”

Goldman expects he’ll be labelled with the Scarlet Letter ‘C’ for a while still, as coronavirus patients are unfairly targeted.

While elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk from COVID-19, the vast majority of those who have caught it have recovered within a couple of weeks.

Australian couple Amber Celik and Daniel Tester were also on the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan in February, and tested positive for the virus.

“I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t feel any symptoms all the way through and to be honest it was a massive shock finding out just as we were thinking we’d embark on the plane to Darwin,” Tester said on The Project.

facts about the coronavirus
Image: Getty.

He had recently had Influenza A, which he said was worse than COVID-19.

Amber had a sore throat on February 4 - the first day the ship was quarantined - but that was her only symptom.

"I wouldn't have known I had it if there wasn't a result showing I did. With all the hysteria and all the concern about it, I thought that I would be feeling a lot of symptoms or being really unwell, so I was really thankful that I was fine," she said.

British man Connor Reed was one of the first to contract the coronavirus after working in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and he experienced more severe symptoms.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said he felt like he had just an average cold towards the end of November.


"The problem with this virus is it progresses in stages, so you'll have a cold, you'll get better, you'll get worse, you'll get better then you'll get worse again.

"Personally, I started with a cold. I got better from the cold, that's when I was hit with the flu, but I got better from the flu and that's when I got hit with pneumonia and the pneumonia stage, because I've never experienced that before, that's when I went to the hospital and got it checked out. I was feeling achy, I just wanted to curl up into a ball. I had ear problems and sinus problems, where it felt like there was a balloon being blown up in my face.

"From there that's where the pneumonia stage hit and that came very suddenly. It was a case of going to bed and waking up not being able to breathe. It scared me because if you have the flu, you feel like you're going to die but you're really not, but when your lungs get affected that's where it scared me and I couldn't take a full breath."

What do I do if I suspect I have coronavirus?

Image: Getty.

Dr Brad McKay said he worried about the impact of the public's panic on GPs.

"If everybody comes down to the general practice if they've got a bit of a cold or a sniffle, then we'll be overrun and you're putting other people at risk as well.

"We are advising if you do have a bit of a sniffle and you're wondering if you do have coronavirus, then call ahead to your GP clinic and help us to know you're approaching... If we know that you're coming we can provide you with a mask and make sure we know what we're doing, and do swabs as quickly as we can and get you home.

"If you're more unwell, then of course just go to the emergency department. If you have time, call ahead to the emergency department and tell them you may have coronavirus as well, particularly if you've been in contact with someone who's been diagnosed with it."

How worried should I be about coronavirus?

Dr McKay said doctors were familiar with coronaviruses, which usually cause instances like the common cold. But this particular strain - COVID-19 - can make people very unwell, very quickly.


"The general symptoms are having a bit of a fever, a sore throat, coughing, some generalised aches and pains which you can get with the flu or the common cold.

"Most people who get it will be fine. 80 per cent of people will just get a sniffle or may not even notice that they've got the infection and that will hopefully give them immunity going forward, but it is about 20 per cent of people that will get quite unwell from it and some of those people will need to be in hospital, and some of those people will need intensive care."

Dr McKay said that information from doctors in Italy, which is in lockdown with more than 9000 reported cases and 463 deaths, indicates about 10 per cent of people who present to emergency departments end up on ventilators.

"And we're finding that it's a rate of about 1-2 per cent of people who do get the infection will die from it," he said.

How does coronavirus testing work?

Dr McKay said currently, medical practitioners are taking both nasal and throat swabs from patients to collect cells from the walls of the nose and the back of the throat, which are then sent off to a lab for testing.

"We're meant to be getting them back within 24 hours but last week I was swabbing patients in the middle of the week and still not getting the results back until four days later," Dr McKay said.

"This isn't good if we're trying to triage people and people are self-isolating at home."

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Feature image: The Project