About COVID-19 and Symptoms

About COVID-19

Last updated: October 2, 2020

Our understanding of COVID-19 continues to evolve. Nationally, COVID-19 activity is still increasing.

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The disease is believed to have originally occurred from animal-to-person contact, and it spreads person-to-person.

COVID-19 can be mild or severe, and it can affect anyone. However, older people with other health conditions seem to be at higher risk for severe illness and death.


Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with one or more of these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • New or worsening cough
  • Fever greater than 100.0 F
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • New headache, neck ache or muscle pain not related to physical activity
  • More than one episode of vomiting or diarrhea

What to Do If You Feel Sick

Call your physician’s office for guidance about testing and treatment if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you do not have a primary care physician, you may call the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 Hotline at 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843) for guidance.
Do not go to your physician’s office before calling. You could risk infecting others.
If you are having serious trouble breathing, go to the emergency department or call 911.

Prevention Tips

Help protect yourself, your family and your community against illness.

  • Practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet from people other than those in your household.
  • Wear a face mask when you are not able to practice physical distancing.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick or who have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.