Memorial Hermann Health System has been on the forefront of COVID-19 prevention and treatment throughout Greater Houston. Our affiliated physicians are dedicated to staying prepared for future spikes in transmission and treating patients with the most up-to-date antiviral measures.

Since the start of the pandemic, scientists and researchers have learned a great deal about how the virus mutates and spreads, but there is still work to be done. We are here to help you stay healthy through preventive measures including vaccines, and we are ready to treat your symptoms to help reduce the risk of severe illness if you contract the virus.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The virus was first reported in 2019 and spread around the world causing a pandemic.

A coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory symptoms. This particular coronavirus, COVID-19, can result in mild, moderate or severe illness. Most people experience only mild to moderate illness, but COVID-19 can lead to hospitalization or death in some patients.

Virus Variants

Viruses change and mutate, creating new versions of the original disease. Sometimes a new variant disappears quickly, but other variants may be more widespread and last longer in the community. As we continue to navigate COVID-19, new variants will appear, and scientists cannot predict which ones will be mild and which will have a more significant impact.

The most widespread variants of COVID-19 have been delta and omicron.

Delta variant: Delta was first identified in the United States in early 2021 and was significantly more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19 and earlier variants.

Omicron variant: Omicron was first identified in the United States in late 2021 and is still the dominant variant in the community. It spreads more easily than the delta variant, but typically causes less severe symptoms. There are additional sub-variants of omicron that continue to spread.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets that contain the virus. Infectious disease specialists  believe you can be infected by COVID-19 in these ways:

  1. An infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes near you. The droplets are released from the infected person into the air, and you inhale them.
  2. You touch an infected person (example: shaking hands) and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes.

Once the virus enters your body through your nose, mouth or eyes, it multiplies and eventually reaches the lungs and other parts of the body. You can be infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others, even if you do not have symptoms. It often takes several days before symptoms appear, but you are still contagious during this time.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Different people experience different symptoms of COVID-19, and some people do not have any symptoms (asymptomatic). It can take between two days and 14 days after being exposed and infected before any symptoms appear; symptoms usually begin about three days to five days after being exposed. The vast majority of infections will present with symptoms within seven  days after exposure, although the full incubation period is 14 days.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and often include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Loss of taste or smell

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

A simple laboratory test can diagnose COVID-19. Testing a sample of mucus from the nose or throat can identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There are two main types of tests used to diagnose COVID-19: antigen tests and molecular tests.

Antigen Test

A nasal swab is used to collect mucus from one or both nostrils. Results are usually available within 30 minutes. Home tests that are self-administered are examples of rapid antigen tests. The antigen test is most reliable when symptoms are present, but it can also be used to test after being exposed to someone with an active infection.

Molecular Test (PCR or NAA)

A swab is used to collect mucus from one or both nostrils or saliva from the throat. The turnaround time for test results will depend on which specific test is used. Some are rapid tests with results available within an hour, while other versions require more time (up to three days) to process the results. This type of test is considered the “gold standard” and is more reliable than an antigen test.

If an individual is experiencing COVID-19 emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake and/or pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips or nailbeds, they should seek emergency medical care immediately. If an individual does not have any of the above emergency warning signs and is just looking for a routine COVID-19 test, please visit any of the sites listed above for more information.

Treatment for COVID-19

The type of treatment needed for COVID-19 depends on the severity of symptoms. Patients who do not experience symptoms (asymptomatic), or experience only mild to moderate symptoms, usually do not need any treatment or can manage symptoms with over-the-counter medications.

Patients at risk for severe infection, or those who are already experiencing symptoms, may need antiviral medication, immunotherapy treatment or breathing assistance.

Antiviral Medications

Oral antiviral medications help improve symptoms and may reduce the risk of hospitalization and death for certain patients with COVID-19. Oral antivirals require a prescription from a health care provider and should begin within a few days of diagnosis in order to be effective.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

Patients who are not able to receive oral antiviral medication may be considered for monoclonal antibody therapy. This treatment helps support a patient’s immune response by giving them a boost of antibodies that are ready to go.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is helpful for patients who are not able to make their own antibodies effectively, or for those at risk of more severe infection. The antibodies in this treatment are created in a lab and designed to specifically target COVID-19 and help reduce the amount of virus in the body. Therapeutic antibodies are most often given as an injection. Therapy should begin within a few days of diagnosis in order to be effective.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization for monoclonal antibody treatment for high-risk or immunocompromised patients.

Learn more about Memorial Hermann’s monoclonal antibody therapy »

Breathing Assistance

If patients experience worsening respiratory symptoms, they should contact their health care provider for assistance. Patients with severe respiratory symptoms and decreased oxygen levels may need supplemental oxygen supplied through a tube in the nostrils. Other patients with a more severe infection may require mechanical ventilation (ventilator). This involves inserting a tube through the mouth and into the trachea to deliver supplemental oxygen.

How can you protect yourself against COVID-19?

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone ages 5 years and older receive the primary series of COVID-19, and everyone ages 12 years and older also receive a booster. Moderately or severely immunocompromised people may be advised to follow a different vaccine schedule.

Vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the virus. Based on clinical trials and observations following the administration of more than hundreds of millions of doses, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Vaccines from three pharmaceutical manufacturers are currently available in the United States:


  • FDA-approved for ages 16+
  • Available for children ages 5 to 15 under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA


FDA-approved for ages 18+

Johnson & Johnson

Available for ages 18+ under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination »

In addition to being vaccinated, it is helpful to follow similar health guidelines that protect you from other viruses like the flu:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • Wear a mask while indoors in public areas where COVID-19 community transmission is high.
  • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet around people who are sick.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

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    Safe Socializing in the COVID Era

    May 11, 2020

    Quarantine fatigue has taken its toll. We’ve watched everything on Netflix, planted our spring gardens and reorganized every drawer and cupboard in the house. We’re more than ready to spend quality time—in person—with family and friends. As stay-at-home restrictions begin ...

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  • A person in a doctor's office speaking with a physician.

    Living a Healthy Life, During and After COVID-19

    May 9, 2020

    It’s time to get back to the basics of good health. Although we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians are taking precautions to safely resume preventive care, both in their offices and virtually, with telehealth audio and video options.

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  • A mom and her children at the dining table doing school work.

    The New Normal: What Every Parent Needs to Know

    May 7, 2020

    Life will never be the same for children who grew up in the COVID-19 era—and that’s challenging. But parents can help their children understand and adjust to the new normal.

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  • A sewing machine and items used for making fabric-based masks.

    A Mask Primer: What You Need to Know About Wearing a Mask

    April 29, 2020

    Masks can keep you from infecting others with the coronavirus via invisible airborne droplets when you cough, sneeze or breathe. You may be contagious even if you don’t have any symptoms.

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  • Family and friends meeting virtually

    How to Host and Celebrate Online

    April 10, 2020

    When we think of Easter, Passover or Ramadan, we think of religious gatherings, huge feasts and celebrating with tons of relatives we might rarely see. Now more than ever, it’s vital to stay home for the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice observing tradition with fa...

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  • Care items for home care kit

    COVID-19 Essentials: Your At-Home Care Kit

    April 10, 2020

    Be prepared. It’s how we must roll these days. And given that many who get COVID-19 will recover at home, it pays to have an emergency at-home care kit ready in advance. Here's what you should have to nurse the infected and protect the rest of your family or housemates.

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  • A digital thermometer with child in background

    How to Properly Take and Monitor Your Temperature

    April 9, 2020

    When it comes to COVID-19, it's clear that fever is a hallmark of the infection. But how high, exactly, is too high? How do you properly take your temperature? How often? What about children? The answers to these questions vary based on the person and the circumstance. Dr. Michael L. Chang, pedia...

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  • Stethoscope on orange background

    When Should You Seek Emergency Medical Attention for COVID-19?

    April 7, 2020

    Most people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, recover on their own. But it’s important to know when to seek medical attention. You or a family member should seek emergency care if you show signs of respiratory or cardiac distress. These include labored breathing, bluish ...

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  • A woman holds a cup of coffee, breathing in the aroma.

    Sudden Loss of Smell or Taste Could Be a Sign of COVID-19

    April 2, 2020

    A sudden loss of smell or taste can be one of the earliest signs of COVID-19. “But losing your sense of smell doesn’t mean with certainty that you have coronavirus, so don’t be alarmed,” says Dr. Sreekrishna K. Donepudi, an otolaryngologist with Memorial Hermann Medical Gr...

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  • A woman holds her computer in her lap as she virtually chats with friends.

    Tips for Convincing Doubters About the Importance of Social Distancing

    March 31, 2020

    Social distancing is a phrase regularly used in our vocabulary now. You’ve followed the recommended precautions, but a family member deems this order unnecessary. Here are tips to have an honest conversation with your loved one. How do you handle someone in your family who's not taking "soc...

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  • An assortment of take-out food boxes being held by a person donning a striped apron.

    Quarantine-d Eating

    March 27, 2020

    Whether the organic items on your shopping list are unavailable or you’re limiting your grocery store runs, many staple ingredients can be used for healthy meals and last longer than you think. Here’s how to curate a quarantine pantry and refrigerator. What are some staple ingredients...

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  • An aerial view of a desk with laptop, planner, coffee and a plant.

    Healthy at Home

    March 23, 2020

    Taking your work from office to home can be an adjustment, especially if you’re sharing the space with a partner or kiddos. Try and use this new working from home reality to create a healthy routine and keep your mental health top of mind. Many of us have quickly shifted to home offices and...

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  • A person in a doctor's office speaking with a physician.

    (Home)school is in Session

    March 20, 2020

    If you’re homeschooling during COVID-19, you’re not alone. Social distancing has become the new normal for families, and you may have questions on how to let ‘kids be kids’ while keeping everyone safe—and sane. Being inside, away from friends and displaced from routi...

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