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 not vaccinated, including recommended booster(s)
- 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. 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.
If you think you have COVID-19, call your primary care provider or set up an urgent care video visit.
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.
Don’t have a primary care provider? Call 913-588-1227 for help establishing one.