COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”) is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (an abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2).

Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and usually cause mild to moderate illness in people.

According to the CDC and WHO, people at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 include adults over 60 and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, chronic kidney disease, COPD, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sickle cell disease, and people with compromised immune systems. See below under the question "Who is at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?" for more information about risk factors.

Symptoms

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported — ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • 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

This list does not include all possible symptoms. For more about COVID-19 symptoms and to access a self-checker tool, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Symptoms of Coronavirus page.

COVID-19 Testing for Michigan Medicine Patients

If You Think You Have COVID-19

If you would like to be evaluated for COVID-19, see the options below. Please note: Stay at home and away from others if you are sick. In many cases, COVID-19 can be managed without emergency care.

For Patients: There are three options for established Michigan Medicine patients who want to be evaluated for COVID.

  1. Schedule a Virtual Care Visit: Submit an E-Visit or Urgent Care Video Visit request for prompt evaluation for COVID-19. Visit our Virtual Care page or log in to the MyUofMHealth patient portal to get started.
  2. Call the COVID-19 Hotline for Patients: The hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 days a week, to answer COVID-19 questions. Call 734-763-6336 to reach the hotline.
  3. Contact Your Primary Care Provider: If you are an established patient of a Michigan Medicine primary care provider, contact your clinic with questions or to be evaluated for COVID-19. Find your doctor using our Find a Doctor tool, or search by location.

If you are not a Michigan Medicine patient and are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, contact your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, contact the State of Michigan Coronavirus Hotline at 888-535-6136.

For Employees: Call the COVID-19 Hotline for Employees. U-M Occupational Health Services has established a COVID-19 hotline for Michigan Medicine employees. Call 734-764-8021 to reach U-M Occupational Health.

Pre-Procedure and Admission Testing

One way we limit your risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by providing testing to all patients with a scheduled surgery, procedure or hospital admission. COVID-19 testing gives us important information to ensure we can keep you and all of our patients and staff safe.

Testing is required for both adult and pediatric patients, including infants, as well as individuals who have previously recovered from a COVID-19 infection. For more information about pre-procedure and admission testing for COVID-19, including frequently asked questions and testing locations, visit our COVID-19 Testing Before Surgery, Procedures, or Admission to the Hospital page.

Antibody Testing

Michigan Medicine offers COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody testing to support the determination of whether an individual has had the COVID-19 virus in the past.

Antibody tests, also known as serology tests, detect antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are generated by the body as part of an immune response. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the most common type of antibody in your blood and other body fluids. An individual with COVID-19 antibodies likely has been infected with COVID-19 in the past. Antibodies can usually be detected in a person’s blood 2-3 weeks after symptoms begin. 

By contrast, standard nasal swab testing (molecular PCR tests) are the first line of testing to determine if a person has an active COVID-19 infection.

Michigan Medicine antibody testing methods have been rigorously validated, and have a greater than 95% sensitivity at greater than two weeks after symptom onset. Michigan Medicine testing methods also demonstrate greater than 98% specificity.

For more information about antibody testing, visit the COVID-19 Antibody Testing page.

Treatment

Early on in the pandemic, healthcare providers had very few options for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19. While drugs like the highly publicized hydroxychloroquine have been proven to be ineffective, others have risen to the top with enough evidence that they help to shorten illness and save lives:

Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory and serve to enhance or mimic the immune system's response to disease. Monoclonal antibodies are already used to treat other diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease.

Monoclonal antibodies, like the ones produced by the pharmaceutical companies Regeneron and Lilly, are drugs that have shown promise when given to patients early in the course of their disease. This treatment is available in very limited supply for emergency use in people at high risk for severe COVID-19 or hospitalization.

Remdesivir is a FDA-approved antiviral drug that works by blocking the virus from replicating in the body. Michigan Medicine has been using the treatment since the spring of 2020, first as part of a clinical trial, then under emergency use authorization and now with full FDA approval. It's been demonstrated that patients who are hospitalized for moderate or severe COVID and treated with remdesivir tend to go home sooner.

However, so far the drug appears to have no effect on whether people die from COVID. And it appears to have no effect on patients with severe disease who are on high-flow oxygen or a mechanical ventilator.

Dexamethasone, a drug that is 60 years old, is a corticosteroid that works by decreasing the body’s misdirected response to disease and is turning the tide for many patients with severe COVID-19. It has long been studied for the treatment of acute respiratory disease syndrome and sepsis.

The drug should not be given to outpatients as it can be harmful if given during an active viral infection, and it needs to be used with careful follow-up. This drug may also be harmful if given early in the course of the disease.

Supplemental oxygen is standard of care for patients with low oxygen levels, and blood thinners are standard treatment to reduce the risks of blood clotting.

Less Effective Treatments

Other treatments have been shown over time to be ineffective, like the highly publicized hydroxychloroquine.

Early on, convalescent plasma, an old therapy where patients are given blood plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19 and generated antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It was used by providers desperate to offer any therapy, but there is currently little good trial data to support its use and trials are still ongoing.

Similarly, over-the-counter supplements like vitamin C, D, and zinc, currently have no evidence to support their use.

For more details about the treatments outlined above, visit the Michigan Health Blog post, "COVID-19 Therapies: Where Are We?"

Research

Michigan Medicine researchers are using their expertise to advance what doctors and scientists know about how to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19. We are currently conducting a number of clinical studies related to COVID-19, including two to test the effectiveness and safety of investigational vaccines. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine trials, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial page. For other coronavirus-related studies, visit the Other Coronavirus Research Studies page or go directly to the list of coronavirus studies on UMHealthResearch.org.


More Coronavirus (COVID-19) Questions & Answers

Who is at risk of getting COVID-19?

In Michigan, we are seeing community spread of COVID-19, which means that there is some risk of exposure for everyone. 

Exposure risk is higher for:

  • Those who have prolonged close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and are not wearing appropriate protective equipment.
  • Elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of more severe illness.

You can lower your risk of exposure by practicing social distancing including staying at least 6 feet away from people, wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when in public, limiting contact with large groups of people, and washing your hands frequently.

Who is at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?

According to the CDC and WHO, people at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 include adults over 60 and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Sickle cell disease
  • People with compromised immune systems

People with compromised immune systems include those:

  • With primary or acquired immunodeficiency
  • On anti-rejection therapy following organ or bone marrow transplant
  • On biologic therapeutic agents
  • With malignant cancers or receiving or who have recently received chemotherapy
  • Receiving systemic immunosuppressive therapy, including corticosteroids equivalent to 20 mg a day of prednisone for 2 weeks or longer

If you are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, watch closely for symptoms and emergency warning signs. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

Get medical attention immediately if you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Visit our COVID-19 Patient-Specific Guidelines page to view or download information for patients with specific conditions or who are being treated at certain Michigan Medicine clinics. This page will be updated as we continue to learn more about the disease.

Should I be worried about the new multi-system inflammatory syndrome being reported in children and adolescents?

New reports suggest that a rare and potentially fatal inflammatory disease linked to the novel coronavirus is afflicting a small number of kids. Pediatric health experts are closely monitoring new data, emphasizing that while parents should learn about the new condition and know the symptoms – they also shouldn’t panic.

Read more about the new syndrome here.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) says health experts are still learning about how this new coronavirus spreads. It is thought that the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from an infected person to others through:

  • Respiratory droplets in the air caused by coughing, sneezing or talking
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)

What steps can I take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or flu?

If you are ill, stay home and rest. Here are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that by covering your mouth and nose, you’re significantly lowering the chances of spreading infection through small droplets that come out of your mouth when you talk, sneeze and cough. Visit our Mask-Wearing to Prevent COVID-19 page for more about the why, who, and how of mask-wearing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Watch the video: "Wash Your Hands: Fight Germs with the University of Michigan Fight Song" for a "Go-Blue" approved demonstration of how to do this.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and anyone outside your household, whether they appear to be sick or not. Some people may carry the virus but may not show many symptoms.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu vaccine.

Other COVID-19 resources

For information about COVID-19 specific to the state of Michigan, visit the State of Michigan COVID-19 website. To find a COVID-19 testing location, visit the COVID-19 Test Finder page on the Michigan.gov website.

For more up-to-date medical information about COVID-19, including what to do if you're sick, symptoms, data, and more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 website.