COVID-19 | What You Should Know

Signs and Symptoms

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, or diarrhea. Symptoms have appeared anywhere from two to 14 days after contact with the virus. If you experience these symptoms, contact a health care provider to determine the cause of your sickness as soon as possible and avoid contact with others. If you live in Illinois and think you may need a COVID-19 test, learn more and find a local testing site here. If you are outside of Illinois, check with your state’s public health department for more information on testing in your area. 

For additional information



Like many viruses, COVID-19 will continue to change and mutate over time. The variant strains allow the virus to spread easily or make it resistant to vaccinations and treatments. Variants may differ from the original coronavirus in how contagious it is, how severe the symptoms are, and how vaccines and medications respond to it. Protection from variant strains is similar to that of the original virus. It’s important to get vaccinated and keep up with booster doses, practice good hygiene like washing hands and using hand sanitizer, getting tested and staying home when necessary, and wearing a mask as cases begin to rise again.

The World Health Organization (WHO) names variants based on letters from the Greek alphabet. The Alpha variant was the first variant to cause noticeable concern. It first appeared in the United Kingdom in November 2020 and became a dominant strain in the US shortly after. The Alpha variant was more infectious and more contagious than the original coronavirus. The Delta variant originally surfaced in India in December 2020 and detected in the US in March 2021. It was a highly contagious variant but did not cause more severe illness. Data suggest the Delta variant was 80 to 90% more transmissible than the Alpha variant. The most recent variant is the Omicron variant that first appeared in South Africa in November 2021. Omicron reached the US in December 2021 and caused daily cases to increase rapidly. As of August 2022, a subvariant of Omicron made up more than 88% of cases in the US, which solidified its status as the dominant strain in the country. Omicron does seem to be resistant to vaccine and previous infection protection.

Getting vaccinated and receiving the recommended booster doses are important in protecting yourself and your community from COVID-19 and its variants. While breakthrough infections, or infections after a vaccine or booster, may occur, getting vaccinated is still the best method of protection. Early data suggest that people who receive the vaccines experience less severe symptoms if they do become infected.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine, if you are able, is the best way to protect yourself and people around you.

Vaccines have been shown to substantially decrease the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The more people get vaccinated, the less likely it is that variants can spread through our communities. If you qualify for the COVID-19 booster shot, make plans to get that as soon as you can.

To learn more about the vaccine or how you can get one, reach out to your doctor or visit the links below. You can find the free vaccine at many neighborhood locations.  

CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) COVID-19 Vaccine Information 

What to know about Long COVID

Long COVID is the diagnosis given to people whose symptoms persist or return in the weeks to months following an initial coronavirus infection. It is also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, post-acute COVID-19, or long haul COVID. Many people start to experience symptoms as soon as just a few weeks after an initial infection, but for others, symptoms may not appear for a few months. Research is ongoing and there is still much to learn, however, studies to date suggest that those at greater risk for developing Long COVID include people who have had a severe case of COVID-19, those who had health conditions prior to a COVID-19 infection, those who are unvaccinated, and people who are prone to inflammation. Even though certain groups may be at a higher risk, Long COVID affects every person differently.

There is a wide array of symptoms and side effects associated with Long COVID. The hundreds of Long COVID symptoms can be sorted into the following categories:

Respiratory Issues:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Lung damage

Cognitive dysfunction:

  • Chronic fatigue and tiredness
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia or sleep issues

Psychological Problems:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood changes

Neurological Problems:

  • Fatigue/brain fog
  • Headache
  • Myalgias
  • Loss of taste or smell or other sensory deficits
  • Nervous system dysfunction

Other Challenges:

  • Malaise (fatigue from over exertion)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stomach or chest pain
  • Joint or muscle pain

If You Live With Lung Disease

Those who live with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer, while not more likely to get the COVID-19 virus, are at greater risk of serious illness if infected. It is important for these groups to take special precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Since developments are fast-breaking, continue to follow trusted news sources or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How Can I Avoid Getting Sick and Prevent Spreading the Disease?

There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of infection and prevent further spread. It’s recommended you:

  • If you are able, get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster dose as soon as possible. 
  • Follow CDC guidance on face coverings while in public. Read more.
  • Contact a health care provider and stay home if you have symptoms.

Smoking and COVID-19

As with any lung illness, smoking increases the risk of negative health effects among those infected with COVID-19. People who smoke are more likely to experience serious complications if they become infected. Preliminary research suggests that smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers. New research also suggests that current smokers are faced with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. While research into the effects of smoking on the risk of contracting COVID-19 is limited and will continue as cases increase, experiences with other lung illnesses suggest that smoking will continue to be a significant risk factor for adverse health outcomes among those diagnosed with COVID-19.

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