A woman wears a mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in Manila on March 13, 2020. (AFP / Maria Tan)

Health experts refute misleading 'timeline' of COVID-19 symptoms

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An infographic has been shared thousands of times in multiple Facebook posts which claim it shows a nine-day timeline of the symptoms of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. This infographic is misleading; it was not distributed by an official health authority and health experts say COVID-19 symptoms vary in duration and severity.

The infographic was published here on March 13, 2020 on a Facebook page called “Systemhub Distribution Inc”.

The post claims that COVID-19 symptoms last for nine days, starting with a fever and a mild sore throat, and ending with a “messy fever” and difficulty breathing. 

Below is a screenshot of the post, which has been shared more than 7,000 times:

Screenshot of Facebook post

A similar infographic crediting “SystemHUB” was also shared in separate Facebook posts here and here.

The infographic is misleading; health experts say COVID-19 symptoms and the time of their onset vary, and warned against such self-check symptom lists.

“There is a lot of variability in the symptoms and in the length of time someone is sick,” Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, an infectious diseases expert at the University of the Philippines' Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, told AFP in a Facebook message on March 19, 2020.

Salvana added that following such misleading timelines may confuse people with flu symptoms and urged people to seek professional advice when unwell.  

International health authorities have also released information on coronavirus symptoms that is contrary to the timeline in the misleading posts. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states here that COVID-19 symptoms “may appear 2-14 days after exposure” and that "illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death".

The World Health Organization also stated here that “some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.”

Meanwhile, as of March 23, 2020, the number of COVID-19 deaths surged past 16,100, with over 361,500 infections reported globally, according to this AFP report.