Testing, symptoms and course of the disease

Foto: Helsedirektoratet/Eline Korsnes Sundal

The coronavirus spreads by droplet transmission. The virus is found in small droplets in the mouth and nose of an infected person and become airborne through sneezing or coughing. The airborne virus is then typically inhaled by people nearby. Contact transmission can occur when your hands come into contact with the virus and you then touch your face.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that all persons with symptoms of covid-19 are tested as soon as possible. Children under the age of 10 with only mild symptoms of a respiratory tract infection can stay at home to assess the symptoms for a couple of days prior to testing. Visit the webpages of your municipality for information on how testing is organized in your area.

Symptoms of coronavirus infection

Symptoms resemble those with colds and influenza.

  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms: fever, a sore throat and coughing.
  • Some people develop breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

People who become ill typically experience a sore throat, symptoms of a cold and a mild cough, as well as a general feeling of being unwell and having muscle pain. Diarrhoea may occur but is not common. The loss of smell and taste can also be a symptom.

For many the symptoms can be mild, for children in particular. If in doubt, contact your doctor.

The difference between symptoms of coronavirus and pollen allergy

During the months of spring, many people in Norway are affected by pollen allergy. The symptoms can resemble those of a coronavirus infection, such as a runny nose, sneezing, runny or itchy eyes and some also experience asthmatic distress.

However, pollen allergy does not bring about symptoms such as a sore throat, body aches or fever as can be seen with coronavirus.

Read more about pollen allergy and symptoms (in Norwegian)

Close contact

You are considered a close contact if you have been near someone with confirmed covid-19 during the 48 hours prior to the onset of their symptoms or during their time in isolation, and you were two metres or closer to them for 15 minutes or more. You are also considered a close contact if you have been in direct contact (e.g hugging or shaking hands) or been in contact with secretes such as saliva, sweat, snot, mucus and tears from someone who is ill.

Transmission and incubation time

Transmission occurs just when you turn ill and at the beginning of the course of the disease. There are clear indications that the risk of transmission is relatively high one to two days before the onset of symptoms.

Contact tracing is therefore performed from 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms.

Incubation time

Very few people turn ill more than 8–9 days after being exposed to the virus. Quarantine time is therefore set at 10 days.

Those that have had covid-19 are exempt from quarantine for six months

If you have had a confirmed (laboratory tested) covid-19 infection within the last six months you are exempted from quarantine. This also applies for travel quarantine.

Persons who have had covid-19 are predominantly likely to be protected against a recurrence of the disease, but it is not yet known for how long this protection will last.

Anyone showing symptoms of an acute respiratory infection shall – like everyone – stay at home for an additional 24 hours after being free of symptoms.

End of isolation after covid-19

You should be completely free of symptoms in order to end the isolation. You need to be free of symptoms for 72 hours with a period of at least eight days having passed since the first symptoms appeared. For persons in hospital or who undergo immunosuppressant treatment the requirement for insulation may be longer.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health provides advice on isolation and how long you should be in isolation (in Norwegian).

What should I do if I suspect that I am infected?

  • If you feel unwell, you should stay at home for two days.
  • Visit the webpages of your municipality for information on where you can be tested.
  • If you are ill and in need of medical attention or individual health counselling, contact your doctor electronically or by telephone.
  • If you need urgent health assistance and cannot reach your doctor, you can call the emergency out-of-hours clinic (116 117).
  • Call 113 when life is in danger or if life threatening injury.

Who should be tested for the coronavirus?

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that anyone showing symptoms of covid-19 is tested as soon as possible. This includes everyone who show symptoms of a respiratory tract infection or other symptoms that by a doctor is suspected to be caused by covid-19.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends a low threshold for suspecting covid-19 for residents at nursing homes.

Children under the age of 10 with only mild symptoms of a respiratory tract infection can stay at home to assess the symptoms for a couple of days prior to testing. Children with a runny nose as the only symptom who are otherwise in a good condition without any additional signs of a newly developed respiratory tract infection do not need to stay at home nor be tested.

Everyone who is tested should stay at home until they have received a negative test result AND are completely free of symptoms.

We want to limit the infection in Norway. It is therefore important to test anyone showing symptoms, isolate those who are ill, perform contact tracing for others infected and to place persons in quarantine based on current criteria.

Symptoms refer to an acute respiratory infection and one or several of the following symptoms: fever, coughing, breathing difficulties, loss of smell and taste, or when covid-19 is suspected by a doctor. In some situations it might be relevant to test persons who do not show typical symptoms (referred to as asymptomatic).

At limited capacity, groups should be tested by order of priority based on criteria set by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, that are assessed and updated continuously.

Contact your doctor or visit the homepage of your municipality for further information on where you can be tested, if relevant.

Many people wonder what applies to them and their closest contact while waiting for the test result. Your close contacts do not need to be in quarantine while awaiting your test results, but they should pay attention to their own symptoms. Should your test come back positive, you will have to be in isolation and your close contacts will need to be in quarantine. Those who this applies to will be notified.

Can the virus be transmitted by people who do not display any symptoms?

While the most typical route of transmission is via a person who displays symptoms, infection can also occur just prior to symptoms developing.

The course of the disease

The course of the disease can vary widely between individuals. Currently, the typical courses appear to be:

  • Mild course (this applies to the majority of those who become ill, about eight out of ten): Symptoms pass within one to two weeks and these is rarely a need for treatment from the healthcare service.
  • Moderate course: After four to seven days of mild symptoms, some people may experience breathing difficulties, worsening cough and a rising fever. If you experience breathing difficulties, you should contact your doctor. Some will need to be admitted to hospital.
  • Severe course: As for the moderate course, but these people also need intensive care treatment. They may have symptoms for 3–6 weeks. Some of those who become severely ill will die from the disease.

Information and knowledge about risk factors for a severe progression of covid-19 is constantly growing. Admission to hospital, intensive care treatment and death are more common among the elderly and people with underlying diseases. The risk is increased with age and underlying diseases in particular. Younger persons without any known risk factors, can also experience a severe illness, but the risk is higher with underlying disease.

Treatment of coronavirus disease

There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the disease, but hospitals in Norway have now started registering patients with confirmed coronavirus infection in the Norwegian pandemic register (Norsk pandemiregister) to allow for improvements in treatment and follow-up.

You can find more information about the Norwegian pandemic register here (in Norwegian).