Explained: Donald Trump’s coronavirus symptoms, including a cough, mild fever, and lethargy

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President Trump on September 30, 2020, two days before announcing his diagnosis. Carlos Barria/Reuters
  • President Trump is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus, including a cough, congestion, mild fever and fatigue.
  • A coronavirus cough tends to be dry, and a fever symptomatic of the illness is usually the first symptom, unlike the flu.
  • Mild cases of COVID-19 are the most common, but can turn severe and may leave lasting damage.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Trump is experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19, including a cough, congestion, low-grade fever, and fatigue, the New York Times reported Friday.

The president revealed early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the illness, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

He’s since been said to be on his way to Walter Reed hospital, but White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

Trump’s reported mild symptoms are common among COVID-19 patients, though they can get better before turning worse. Typically, more severe symptoms don’t set on until the second week of infection.

About 80% of people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms

Coronavirus cases are classified as “asymptomatic,” “mild,” “severe,” or “critical,” with mild referring to patients who don’t need to be hospitalized, Insider’s Shira Feder previously reported.

About 4 in 5 coronavirus patients have “mild” symptoms, which, like Trump, can include cough, congestion, and slight fever, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s growing list. About 40% of patients experience extreme fatigue, or lethargy.

A cough that’s symptomatic of the coronavirus tends to be dry, persistent, and leaves the patient short of breath.

A low-grade fever describes a slightly elevated body temperature, typically between 98.7°F and 100.4°F and lasting for at least 24 hours. A study from the University of Southern California found most symptomatic COVID patients start with a fever, followed by a cough. Symptoms of the flu, on the other hand, typically set on in the reverse order.

Other mild symptoms of COVID-19 may include difficulty breathing, body aches, loss of taste and smell, and gastrointestinal issues.

Todd Herman, an entrepreneur and dad-of-three in New York City who experienced a mild case in March, told Insider then that the way the virus affected his previously normal breathing was most alarming.

Even going from his bedroom to the other end of his Manhattan apartment made him feel a little out of breath. “I haven’t necessarily felt this much lung congestion with anything I’ve ever had before, like a cough or a cold in the past,” Herman said.

Mild cases can turn severe if the viral infections in patients’ respiratory tracts worsen, potentially leading to dangerous consequences like persistent pressure in the chest, confusion or an inability to stay awake. In those and other cases, medical intervention is needed.

President Trump fell asleep on Air Force One on his way home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday, the Times reported.

Even mild cases may have lingering health consequences

Some coronavirus patients recover within two weeks, but a late July CDC report said that COVID-29 “can result in prolonged illness even among persons with milder outpatient illness.” 35% of patients who were never hospitalized for the illness hadn’t fully recovered three weeks later, it found.

A growing portion of patients have reported symptoms that last for months. For many, the symptoms and severity comes in waves, or seem to resolve before turning worse.

Michelle Gong, the director of critical-care research at Montefiore Medical Centre, said in a Q&A with the Journal of the American Medical Association in April that COVID-19 patients often seem to be “doing OK, and then at around the five- to seven-day mark they start to get worse and then develop respiratory failure.”

Even for those whose symptoms resolve, doctors don’t know how the virus may affect their bodies long-term. But since it seems to invade nearly every body system, it’s possible it could leave permanent damage.

“I’ve never seen an infection with this broad range of manifestations,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in July.