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5 Things You Should Know About COVID-19

Your Questions, Answered

Published February 2021

Understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to evolve. It was first detected in China and quickly spread across the globe to every continent, triggering a pandemic designation by the World Health Organization in early 2020. The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2.

What We Know and What We Don’t

Because this virus is new to scientists, understanding of it continues to evolve.

“COVID-19 has a range of clinical manifestations, from mild to life-threatening,” says Infectious Disease Specialist Gary A. Noskin, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

It’s important to stay informed and take preventive measures.

About COVID-19

1. Symptoms can look similar to the flu.

Influenza is a viral respiratory infection, and symptoms of COVID-19 can appear similar. COVID-19 symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

Loss of taste or smell are symptoms unique to COVID-19. Symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. More recently, there is recognition that many patients with COVID-19 may not have any symptoms.

The only way to truly determine if you have COVID-19 through testing.

2. It’s primarily transmitted through droplets.

COVID-19 spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (approximately 6 feet) for at least 15 minutes. Due to airborne spread, it is essential to wear a mask.

3. Certain individuals may be at greater risk for serious illness.

Illness has generally been mild for children and young adults. However, certain populations are more at risk for serious illness. The most vulnerable populations include people ages 65 and older, and individuals with certain underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

4. You can protect yourself and your family.

In addition to staying informed, Dr. Noskin encourages everyone to exercise precaution by following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To help protect yourself and others from the spread of infection:

5. You should know what to do if you’re sick.

If you are feeling sick, monitor your symptoms carefully. Call your physician for guidance if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Learn about testing and isolation precautions to protect others in your home.

If you are having trouble breathing and need emergency care, have someone take you to the emergency department or call 911.

Bottom Line

COVID-19 can look different in every person. Consult the CDC for the most current recommendations.

COVID-19 vaccines are supplied by state and local agencies. Not all vaccine types are offered at all Northwestern Medicine locations. Learn more about the current vaccination plan at Northwestern Medicine.

Gary A. Noskin, MD
Gary A. Noskin, MD
Nearest Location:
Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Infectious Disease
Accepts New Patients
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