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.
Currently the predominant variant of the COVID-19 virus in the United States, Delta is more infectious and spreads up to 2x faster when compared with earlier variants, even in some vaccinated individuals. With the dominant Delta variant, the CDC recommends everyone, even those fully vaccinated, wear masks in public indoor places in areas of substantial or high transmission.
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.
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
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
- Coughing up blood
- Too weak to stand
Tell the 911 operator or first responders you are being evaluated for COVID-19.
Outpatient care: monoclonal antibody therapy
Many patients will work with their primary care providers for symptom management. Some may qualify for monoclonal antibody therapy.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is an available treatment for people recently diagnosed with COVID-19. A monoclonal antibody is a medical product produced in a laboratory. These molecules are designed to act just like the antibodies the body would produce to recover from a disease. The therapy is given by intravenous infusion in an outpatient setting. It should be given as soon as possible after a positive COVID-19 test and within 10 days of the first symptoms.
Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 is given to eligible patients, who must meet criteria as follows:
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
- Serious heart conditions
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 40)
- 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)
Adult patients who must be hospitalized for COVID-19 may receive:
- Remdesivir, an antiviral drug
- Dexamethasone, a steroid used for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects
- Anti-coagulants (blood thinners)
Supplemental oxygen may also be given, and the use of a mechanical ventilator may be necessary to help patients breathe.
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
- Malaise (a vague feeling of unwellness)
- Myalgia (muscle aches and pains)
- Shortness of breath
- Tiredness or aggravation of symptoms following exertion, even mild exertion
The health system offers a multidisciplinary program to provide post-COVID-19 symptom management for post-acute and chronic disease.
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.