COVID cases are rising again in the United States, another reminder that the pandemic is not over. People are still getting infected daily and cautionary measures should continue to be taken to avoid catching the virus. dr Kunal Gurav, MD, FACC, MBA, ChenMed Medical Director of Cardiology and Regional Chief Clinical Officer for Dedicated Senior Medical Centers in Missouri and Tennessee tells Eat This.Not That! Health, “COVID-19 is not yet eliminated. New variants are likely to present just as new mutations in multiple viruses are responsible for common colds in fall, spring and summer.” He adds, “The preventive measures for COVID-19 remain the same. Get vaccinated/boosted. Wear a mask if showing symptoms or in public areas where social distancing is not possible. Practice social distancing and try to avoid super spreader events.” ETNT! Health spoke with experts who explained what the signs of Omicron are to watch out for and what could happen next with the pandemic. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
First Signs Someone Has Omicron
dr Eric Cioe-Peña MD, Director of Global Health and ED physician at Staten Island University Hospital shares, “First signs tend to be congestion and other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as a runny nose and sore throat, etc. You should test after an exposure, or any COVID-compatible symptoms. Testing before you see vulnerable family members even if asymptomatic is still inadvisable.”
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Omicron and the Cold or Flu?
dr Cioe-Peña says, “Usually, the only way to tell for sure is to get tested. The symptoms are pretty similar. Certainly, some symptoms are more likely with COVID, like loss of taste and smell but other than that it’s hard to tell based on symptoms.”
Why Omicron is Less Severe Than COVID
According to Dr. Cioe-Peña, “Omicron is milder COVID than previous variants, likely because a lot of the mutations that make it more infectious look similar to mutations in coronaviruses that cause the common cold. This likely makes it more infectious but not less severe. It is still very severe in patients that are unvaccinated, so this should not be overemphasized. Many of those who have been infected with omicron were either previously infected or vaccinated, which results in milder illness.”
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Long Haul Symptoms
Omicron might be less severe for most people, but anyone can still get Long COVID, Hannah Newman, the director of infection prevention at Lenovo Hill Hospital tells us, “Some people who suffer from the virus have long-lasting symptoms that persist for weeks or months, which is less common with other viral illnesses. This can include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, chest pain, cough, muscle pains, changes in taste and smell, and heart and GI issues, among others.”
BA.2 is now the dominant variant
dr Emil Tsai, MD – Ph.D., MAS, chief scientist and CEO of SyneuRx explains, “Omicron, also known as BA.1, continues to be active and people are still susceptible to catching it; however, it has been surpassed by BA.2 as the dominant variant in the US More than 50 percent of cases in the US are the BA.2 variant and it continues to gain momentum. The BA.2 variant is a mutation or subvariant of the BA.1 variant commonly known as Omicron. Omicron was a mutation of the original COVID-19 virus and BA.2 is a mutation of Omicron or BA1. BA.2 is much more infectious than Omnicom. However, it does not have increased severity of illness or death.”
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What’s Going to Happen Next with the Pandemic
dr Tsai shares, “If you look back a little more than 100 years ago to the Spanish Flu, the world was devastated for approximately two or three years. Then the population started to develop some immunity, not perfect immunity but some immunity. The same thing will eventually happen with COVID. So, if you fast forward 100 years to 2122, we will still have the COVID virus in some form as it will have continued to mutate, but we will have better natural immunity, better preventative measures and therapeutic options. COVID will continue to be something that the world must contend with, just like we still contend with the influenza virus.”
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face maskdon’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’ t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.