As we continue to navigate COVID-19, you can count on OSF HealthCare to keep you informed and guide you to safe, compassionate care when you and your family need it.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus discovered in 2019. The virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets and small particles produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Illness can range from mild to severe, though not everyone infected with the virus develops symptoms.


COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe and appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you have severe symptoms, like trouble breathing, seek emergency care immediately. Unsure if the symptoms you’re experiencing are COVID-19? You can get direction on what to do by chatting with an OSF nurse.

COVID Risk Factors

The virus spreads quickly in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor settings. Understanding how COVID-19 spreads and the factors that can increase or decrease your risk – such as how long you are exposed to someone with the virus – can help you make informed choices.

Those at higher risk for severe illness that could result in hospitalization or death include:

  • People with underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and COPD
  • Adults age 50 and older
  • Individuals who are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system


In addition to basic health and hygiene practices, like handwashing and wearing a mask when transmission levels are high in your community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following COVID-19 prevention measures:

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination
  • Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if needed
  • Stay home if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Improve ventilation in enclosed areas
  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19

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To diagnose whether you have COVID-19, you’ll need to be tested. When you test, however, depends on when you were exposed or when you begin experiencing symptoms.


Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home using over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. If you have tested positive or have developed symptoms:

  • Isolate yourself from others for at least five days
  • Get rest and take plenty of fluids
  • Wear a mask around others
  • Use good hand hygiene and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

People at higher risk of severe illness should be tested if they suspect they might be infected and should seek treatment immediately if they test positive. There are antiviral medications that your health care provider can prescribe to prevent severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death.