Skip Navigation

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Most people who get COVID-19 will have mild to moderate illness with shortness of breath or a fever. Most will recover with rest and treatment of symptoms at home. But for some, COVID-19 can become severe – requiring hospitalization – and result in long-term health complications or even death. People who face longer-term recovery from COVID-19 may experience reduced lung function, heart trouble, fatigue or cognitive issues (brain fog).

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a virus. COVID-19 spreads from person to person primarily through the droplets an infected person discharges through their nose or mouth in sneezes, coughs or breath clouds. When another person breathes in those droplets or transfers them from their hands or a surface to their face, eyes, nose or mouth, that person may also become infected.

It is possible to be infected without developing symptoms and unknowingly shed disease, possibly infecting others. Once infected, a person may begin spreading disease in their droplets up to 48 hours before exhibiting symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms and risks

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can result in many different types of symptoms. The virus can have a long incubation period, meaning you may experience symptoms 2-14 days following your exposure.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. Anyone can get it, whether younger or older, healthy or not. You could be at higher risk of becoming ill and experiencing disease complications if you:

  • Are older
  • Have existing health conditions, like heart, lung, liver or kidney disease
  • Have a weakened immune system or a blood disorder
  • Are obese or have diabetes
  • Are pregnant or recently pregnant

COVID-19 does not discriminate. To reduce your risk of getting sick, vaccinate if eligible. Until then or if in a high-transmission area, remember to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Keep your hands away from your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and anyone not part of your immediate family or household.
  • Wear a face covering or mask when out in public, in a shared space or any time you cannot maintain physical distancing.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow.
  • Avoid gatherings if you can and limit necessary gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Keep gatherings outdoors whenever possible.

COVID-19 diagnosis and screening

If you are feeling sick, you can screen yourself for possible COVID-19 by considering whether, in the last 3 days, you have experienced:

  • Temperature > 100.0°F
  • Cough, shortness of breath or chest tightness
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Muscle aches or chills
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • Persistent headache
  • Close contact with someone who received a positive COVID-19 test in the last 14 days

If you answer yes to any of these, you may have COVID-19. Call your primary care provider’s office or set up an urgent care video visit with the health system’s urgent care team. Sign in to your MyChart account and choose Urgent Care Video Visit to begin the process.

Many COVID-19 symptoms are similar to symptoms of common colds or allergies. Learn how to tell the difference.

The health system performs COVID-19 testing by appointment only. We use the nasopharyngeal swab, considered the gold standard for the most accurate testing. Learn more about COVID-19 testing.

You should remain home and isolated while awaiting COVID-19 test results.

If you think you have COVID-19, call your primary care provider or set up an urgent care video visit.

COVID-19 treatment

Most people who have COVID-19 will be able to recover safely at home without seeking medical care. Rest, fluids and pain and fever reducers will ease symptoms.

For those who need to seek medical care, this care can span:

  • Emergency treatment
  • Hospital-based treatments
  • Outpatient treatments, including monoclonal antibody therapy

Emergency care

Some symptoms, whether caused by COVID-19 or another medical condition, require immediate attention. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Extreme difficulty breathing, including the inability to speak a full sentence
  • Temperature ≥ 103.0 F
  • Severe or constant chest pain/pressure
  • Confusion or inability to be roused
  • Blue lips or face
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizure
  • Coughing up blood
  • Too weak to stand

Tell the 911 operator or first responders you are being evaluated for COVID-19.

Hospital-based care

Adult patients who must be hospitalized for COVID-19 may receive:

  • Remdesivir, an antiviral drug
  • Dexamethasone, tocilizumab or baricitnib, immune suppressive medications
  • Anti-coagulants (blood thinners)

Supplemental oxygen may also be given, and the use of a mechanical ventilator may be necessary to help patients breathe.

Outpatient care

Your primary care provider is an excellent point of contact and supportive care in managing COVID-19. We encourage you to contact your primary care provider if you have one or more of the following conditions and are being tested for COVID-19:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Older than 60 years of age
  • Pregnancy
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 35)
  • Smoker
  • Weakened immune system, including undergoing cancer treatment, prolonged use of steroids, transplant recipient or diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
  • Underlying conditions (diabetes, renal failure, hypertension or liver disease)

Monoclonal antibody therapy

Many patients will work with their primary care providers for symptom management. Some may qualify for monoclonal antibody therapy. Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy should be given as soon as possible after a positive COVID-19 test and within 7 days of the first symptoms.

Note: Contact your healthcare provider for a referral.

Self-care at home

If you’re experiencing mild symptoms, you can take a number of actions at home to be more comfortable and keep friends and family safe.

Get plenty of rest. Try to drink 114-plus ounces daily (avoid caffeine or alcohol) unless your fluid intake is restricted due to a medical condition. If this is the case, speak to a member of your care team about a fluid goal. If you’re experiencing symptoms, consider an over-the-counter medication recommended by your healthcare provider or specialist. Be sure to monitor your symptoms and reach out to a member of your care team if your symptoms worsen. Call 911 if you need emergency services and alert them you have tested positive for COVID-19.

Know when to call your doctor

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing that is new or worsens by interfering with your ability to speak in complete sentences while at rest, or if it is accompanied by wheezing.
  • Oxygen saturation on room air of 90% or less, regardless of severity of shortness of breath. Oximeters (small devices to measure your oxygen levels) are sold at most local pharmacies.
  • Fever is persistently greater than 101 and does not go down with acetaminophen.
  • Dizziness or mental status changes, such as confusion, change in behavior and/or difficulty arousing.
  • New or worsening symptoms not controlled by over-the-counter medications and home remedies.

If at any time you feel you need urgent or immediate evaluation, call 911 and inform them you have COVID-19.

When it’s time for emergency care

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911. For COVID-19-positive patients, the following symptoms require immediate medical attention:

  • Extreme difficulty breathing, including the inability to speak a full sentence
  • Temperature greater than 103.0 F
  • Severe or constant chest pain/pressure
  • Confusion or inability to be aroused
  • Blue lips or face
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizure
  • Coughing up blood
  • Too weak to stand

Be sure to tell the 911 operator and first responders you have tested positive for COVID-19.

Woman on computer

I have COVID-19. Now what?

Here are some of the answers you’re looking for and guidance on what to do next.

Next steps

When to go to the ER

Listen to Ryan Jacobsen, MD, EMS Medical Director at The University of Kansas Health System, describe when you should go to the ER during the COVID-19 surge.

Ryan Jacobsen, MD: [00:00:30] I think the workforce shortage is one of the biggest challenges that we have right now. And it's making it incredibly hard to staff ambulances, staff the emergency departments. It's a little scary at times. We have critical patients who need resuscitation in a hospital. They're very, very sick, and the hospital says, "We're full. We don't have any beds."

We've been actively discussing the option of a 911 response to a patient, and us telling them that we don't think they need to go to the hospital. Now that's a very provocative thing to institute. That is not the typical norm for EMS providers to provide a medical screening exam like an emergency department would. But because of staffing, because of the increased call volume, we're actually trying to keep ambulances available for the true emergencies.

[00:01:00] Chest pain, trouble breathing, any sort of hemorrhage or gastrointestinal bleeding, blood in your stools or vomiting blood, passing out.

If you can feel better with Tylenol or ibuprofen, over the counter cough and cold remedies, things of that nature. Just for an exposure, that is a very poor use of emergency department or 911. If you have no symptoms, and even if the symptoms are mild, there's no reason to immediately go to the emergency department.

Post-COVID-19 symptom management

For many people, a full recovery from COVID-19 can take weeks or months. Some of the disease’s symptoms can affect your body for a very long time. If you experience symptoms for 3-12 weeks after the initial infection, doctors call this condition post-acute COVID-19. If you have symptoms for more than 12 weeks after the initial infection, doctors call this condition chronic COVID-19.

You may commonly hear people with post-acute or chronic COVID-19 called long-haulers, and you may hear these persistent symptoms called long-haul symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Cognitive issues or "brain fog" (confusion, short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating)
  • Continued loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Malaise (a vague feeling of unwellness)
  • Myalgia (muscle aches and pains)
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or aggravation of symptoms following exertion, even mild exertion

If you have questions about post-COVID-19 symptom management, contact your primary care provider.

Don’t have a primary care provider? Call 913-588-1227 for help establishing one.

Why choose us for COVID-19 care

As part of the region’s premier academic medical center, our specialists collaborate in multidisciplinary teams to deliver complete care. Care teams for COVID-19 patients may include experts in internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, respiratory care, infectious disease management and more.

Our infection prevention and control team has the know-how and experience to keep patients, visitors and staff safe even while treating contagious conditions. These skilled professionals consistently establish and evolve safety measures in keeping with new discoveries and information related to COVID-19.

In partnership with the University of Kansas Medical Center, our physicians regularly develop, lead and participate in clinical trials, advancing new treatments and bringing expanded options to our patients. COVID-19 is no exception.

Man on computer

COVID-19 vaccine FAQ

Vaccines for COVID-19 are here, but with them have come many questions. We answer as many as we can for you.

Read the FAQ