COVID-19 update: What to know and how to manage illness

Clinician wearing a mask to protect against illness with team in background.


Updated CDC guidelines for COVID-19 are now the same as for flu and RSV. Find out how to prevent COVID-19 spreading to others if you have symptoms.


By Martha DesBiens, MD, MPH Infectious Disease, Nuvance Health


Even four years removed from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, testing positive for the virus can be a stressful event. Public health organizations strive to provide clear and simple guidance for managing COVID-19 illness. This guidance balances many factors, even when the science is quite complex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance to align precautions taken with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, for non-healthcare workers.


Learn more about COVID-19 from Nuvance Health


Being proactive for those with COVID-19 symptoms


The CDC recently updated its recommendations about precautions taken with COVID-19 to align these measures with other contagious respiratory viruses, including influenza (flu) and RSV. These infections can have similar symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Throat pain


The updated CDC guidance suggests people who are sick with an upper respiratory infection stay home and distance from others until their symptoms have improved, and they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications. After this time, the CDC encourages individuals to take other protective measures including appropriate distancing and wearing a mask around others for an additional five days.


CDC guidelines for COVID-19 and other upper respiratory viral illness


The best way to manage a viral illness is not to contract the virus in the first place. Core prevention recommendations include maintaining current immunizations and good hand hygiene. If possible, keep a reasonable distance from people who are ill with upper respiratory symptoms.


If you do get sick, stay home and rest. Take extra precautions to distance from people with risk factors for more severe disease, including people aged 65 and older, immunocompromised people and those with certain other medical conditions.


Related content: What you need to know about neurological symptoms after COVID-19

How to manage COVID-19 symptoms


As with many respiratory viruses, managing COVID-19 symptoms takes a little finesse and attention to supportive care. In general, some common ways to manage your symptoms are:

  • Get rest and stay hydrated.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs.


Some people will benefit from taking anti-viral medications, especially those with risk factors for more severe COVID-19.  Talk to your doctor to learn more about this.


 Book a telehealth visit with your primary care physician.

How long is COVID-19 contagious?


We have learned a lot about the duration of contagiousness of COVID-19, and science about the virus continues to grow. In general, people with respiratory viruses are usually most infectious to others while they are symptomatic. However, spreading the infection can occur after symptoms have improved.

How long COVID-19 remains contagious in any one infected person depends on how severe the symptoms are and the health of the individual’s immune system.


In most otherwise healthy people experiencing mild to moderate symptomatic COVID-19, previous studies have indicated the median duration of infectiousness is around five days, and peak infectiousness occurs a median of three days after symptom onset. Recent studies, including those evaluating post-omicron COVID-19, have indicated transmission remains possible after five days of symptoms. In most cases, transmissibility declines with time, and the likelihood of infecting another person is usually lower after five days compared to earlier in the illness.


Struggling with COVID-19? Book now with an infectious disease specialist.


The bottom line: The CDC updated its respiratory virus guidance to align recommendations for COVID-19 with those for other common upper respiratory viruses. If you get one of these respiratory viruses, you should isolate yourself from others until you are feeling better and are fever-free without using fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours. Consider wearing a mask for five days after that, especially if you are around vulnerable people at risk for severe COVID-19.


It can be difficult to determine exactly when the virus is no longer contagious. As science evolves, public health guidance continues to emphasize the importance of everyone's obligation to make the best decisions to sustain a healthy, safe environment for all our community members.


Find a primary care provider


Source: Respiratory Virus Guidance (