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This Early Symptom is One You Should Watch for With Omicron Infections Rising

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Omicron Variant

This Early Symptom is One You Should Watch for With Omicron Infections Rising

If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?

If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?

It’s a question many are asking as omicron cases surge across the country and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines, which now differ depending on whether or not you have a symptomatic infection.

Here’s what we know so far.

What are some of the first symptoms with omicron?

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Sore throat continues to be a symptom reported, particularly in mild breakthrough infections, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday.

“Especially in people who we’re seeing these more mild breakthrough infections, we are definitely seeing sore throat be a predictor in that group,” Arwady said.

She repeated earlier calls for people who have any flu- or cold-like symptoms to assume they have COVID “until proven otherwise.”

“Even if it’s a sore throat, no matter what it is,” she said. “I’ve told my own staff this, it’s what I do myself… if you are sick, even a little bit sick, stay home. More true than ever right now because sick, even a little bit sick, until proven otherwise with a test – that’s COVID. That’s how we treat it, that’s how you should treat it.”

What are the other symptoms to watch for after COVID exposure?

With some omicron cases, particularly breakthrough infections in those who are boosted and vaccinated, remaining mild, many are wondering how to tell if it’s a cold, the flu or COVID-19.

Arwady said that now, those who are fully vaccinated aren’t necessarily getting “seriously ill and having fevers for days and difficult breathing,” but are instead experiencing a more mild illness.

“They may only feel like they have a cold,” she said. “That’s good because they’re not getting seriously sick, they’re not threatening the healthcare system, but it’s certainly of some concern because they do have the potential to transmit to others.”

Those who are unvaccinated, however, are experiencing similar symptoms to early on in the pandemic, Arwady said.

Arwady’s comments echo those of other medical experts who are watching omicron cases.

Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant. But unlike delta, many patients are not losing their taste or smell.

The evidence so far, according to Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She noted also that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.

Still, CDC data showed the most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.

Overall, the symptoms for COVID reported by the CDC include:

  • 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

The CDC also has what it calls a “coronavirus self checker” that allows people to answer a series of questions to determine if they should seek medical care.

“The Coronavirus Self-Checker is an interactive clinical assessment tool that will assist individuals ages 13 and older, and parents and caregivers of children ages 2 to 12 on deciding when to seek testing or medical care if they suspect they or someone they know has contracted COVID-19 or has come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the CDC’s website reads.

Here’s how to use it.

How soon might COVID symptoms appear?

According to earlier CDC guidance, COVID symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.

Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get tested for COVID-19.

Some people may never experience symptoms, though they can still spread the virus.

A person is also considered contagious before symptoms appear.

When are people with COVID most contagious?

The CDC says that its guidelines were updated to reflect growing evidence that suggests transmission of COVID-19 often occurs one to two days before the onset of symptoms and during the two to three days afterward.

“This has to do with data from the CDC that really showed after seven days there’s virtually no risk of transmission at this point,” Arwady said. “And in that five-to-seven-day window, you know, there’s some depending on whether people have been vaccinated, underlying conditions, etc., but the risk drops a lot and the feeling is that in the general population, combined with masking, etc. the risk really is very low.”

For those without symptoms, CDC guidance states they are considered contagious at least two days before their positive test.

When should you call a doctor?

The CDC urges those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek medical care immediately if they experience symptoms including:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

“This list is not all possible symptoms,” the CDC states. “Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”

You can also notify the operator that you believe you or someone you are caring for has COVID.

How long after COVID exposure could you test positive?

According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID is between two and 14 days, though the newest guidance from the agency suggests a quarantine of five days for those who are not boosted, but eligible or unvaccinated. Those looking to get tested after exposure should do so five days after the exposure or if they begin experiencing, the CDC recommends.

Those who are boosted and vaccinated, or those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for a booster shot, do not need to quarantine, but should wear masks for 10 days and also get tested five days after the exposure, unless they are experiencing symptoms.

Still, for those who are vaccinated and boosted but are still looking to be cautious, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said an additional test at seven days could help.

“If you’re taking multiple at home tests, you know, the recommendation is five days later take a test. But if you have taken one at five and it’s negative and you’re feeling good, chances are very good that you’re not going to have any more issues there,” she said. “I think if you’re being extra careful there, if you wanted to test again, you know, at seven even, sometimes people look at three to get an earlier sense of things. But if you’re gonna do it once do it in five and I feel good about that.”

Arwady said testing is likely not necessary after seven days following exposure for those who are vaccinated and boosted.

“If you had an exposure, you’re vaccinated and boosted, I don’t think that there is any need to be testing, frankly, past about seven days,” she said. “If you want to be extra careful, you can do it at 10, but just with what we’re seeing, I would consider you really in the clear. If you’re not vaccinated or boosted, I certainly have a much higher concern that you could get infected. Definitely, ideally, you’d be seeking out that test at five and I would do it again, you know, at the seven, potentially at that 10.”

When is the best time to get tested after exposure?

The CDC states that anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should test five days after their exposure, or as soon as symptoms occur.

“If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that incubation times could be changing, but those who test early should continue testing even if they get negative results.

“We might be learning that the time of incubation might be a little shorter. So maybe you’d be testing at two days,” Ezike said. “Obviously if you’re symptomatic, you test right away. But you know, if you want to test at two days, but that negative test… the two days should not make you think, ‘Oh good, I’m clear,’ you know? You might want to test again and of course symptoms you cannot ignore – scratchy throat, headaches, all kinds of symptoms – anything new can be a symptom of this new illness.”

How long should you quarantine or isolate?

First things first, those who believe they have been in contact with someone who has COVID and are unvaccinated should quarantine. Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s the difference between the two:

Quarantine

Those who have been within six feet of someone with COVID for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period should quarantine for five days if unvaccinated, or if they are more than six months out from their second vaccine dose, according to updated CDC guidance issued Monday.

Once that period ends, they should partake in strict mask use for an additional five days.

Previously, the CDC said people who were not fully vaccinated and who came in close contact with an infected person should stay home for at least 10 days.

Prior to Monday, people who were fully vaccinated — which the CDC has defined as having two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — could be exempt from quarantine.

Those who are both fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with COVID, but should wear a mask for at least 10 days after exposure. The same goes for those who are fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for their booster shot.

Local health authorities can also make the final determination about how long a quarantine should last, however, and testing can play a role.

Illinois’ health department said it will adopt the CDC revised guidelines on isolation and quarantine for COVID.

In Chicago, those who travel to or from certain parts of the country and are unvaccinated must quarantine upon arrival to the city, but the length of time they should do so for depends on whether they get tested for COVID.

The city has not yet said if the new CDC guidance will change its travel advisory guidelines.

As of Tuesday, the city’s travel advisory recommends those who travel from designated warning states should:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
    • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

Isolation

People who are positive for COVID should stay home for five days, the CDC said Monday, changing guidance from the previously recommended 10 days.

At the end of the period, if you have no symptoms, you can return to normal activities but must wear a mask everywhere — even at home around others — for at least five more days.

If you still have symptoms after isolating for five days, stay home until you feel better and then start your five days of wearing a mask at all times.

So how do you calculate your isolation period?

According to the CDC, “day 0 is your first day of symptoms.” That means that Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms developed.

For those who test positive for COVID but have no symptoms, day 0 is the day of the positive test. Those who develop symptoms after testing positive must start their calculations over, however, with day 0 then becoming the first day of symptoms.

Do you need to test out of isolation or quarantine?

Isolation

For those who test positive for COVID and isolate for the required five-day period without symptoms, there is not currently a requirement to test before you see people again, according to the most recent CDC guidance.

“If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the five-day isolation period,” the CDC guidance states. “If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.”

The advice for those who tested positive and experienced symptoms also does not indicate a testing requirement, but rather, the person must remain “fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication” and other symptoms should have improved before they end their isolation, which must last a minimum of five days.

Both symptomatic and asymptomatic people should continue wearing masks around others for an additional five days, the guidance states.

Quarantine

For those in quarantine, however, the guidance is different.

According to the CDC, those exposed to COVID who develop symptoms should test immediately and enter isolation protocols until they receive their results and if they positive.

Those who do not develop symptoms should get tested at least five days after their exposure and, if negative, can leave their home but should continue masking until the 10-day mark.

Why don’t you need to test out of isolation?

The CDC notes that tests “are best used early in the course of illness to diagnose COVID-19 and are not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to evaluate duration of infectiousness.”

“While a positive antigen test likely means a person has residual transmissible virus and can potentially infect others, a negative antigen test does not necessarily indicate the absence of transmissible virus,” the CDC’s website reads. “As such, regardless of the test result, wearing a well-fitting mask is still recommended.”

The CDC’s most recent guidance came as many experts expected a testing requirement to be added, but it also comes at a time when testing shortages are being reported nationwide.

“I do not think that the clarification helped at all and I actually think that it made things worse,” emergency physician Dr. Leanna Wen, the former health commissioner of Baltimore, said in an interview with CNN. “I think they should be upfront and say they can’t do this because they don’t have enough tests.”

Chicago’s top doctor, however, said the reason behind the CDC’s decision to not add a testing requirement could be related to changes brought by recent variants.

“You don’t need to have a negative test to come out of isolation, particularly if you’re vaccinated or boosted, because we see lower rates, overall, of infection, shorter times of transmission,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Testing demand continues to soar across the country and state and some experts say the omicron variant has “sped up” timing for what many have come to know with COVID.

“With delta and and with omicron, everything’s been speeding up. That incubation period is shorter, the time that someone is infectious is shorter and therefore the quarantine period, as long as people have recovered, can be shortened,” Arwady said. “Really, after seven days, especially if your symptoms are better, there’s like no evidence that you’re still a transmitting COVID.”

What kind of test should you use if you do want to test before leaving isolation?

The CDC recommends antigen testing for those looking to test before leaving isolation.

Arwady said that guidance is likely related to determining whether or not someone has an “active” virus.

“If you did want to get a test on please don’t get a PCR. Use it rapid antigen test,” she said. “Why? Because the rapid antigen test is the one that will look to see…do you have a high enough COVID level that you are potentially infectious? Now, a PCR test, remember, can pick up up sort of traces of the virus for a long time, even if that virus is bad and even if it’s not potentially transmitting. We sometimes see PCR tests stay positive for weeks even after someone has been infected. But… that is not live COVID that you can grow on a plate that is spreading.”

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Omicron-specific vaccine likely to come too late to help in this wave: Sharma – Victoria News

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Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says variant-specific vaccines can be approved faster than the general ones first issued to combat COVID-19, but one targeting the Omicron strain still likely won’t be ready in time to help with the latest wave.

Dr. Supriya Sharma said what is really needed are vaccines that can possibly stop more than one variant at a time, including those yet to come.

Omicron became the dominant variant in Canada in just over two weeks, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday it’s now believed to be responsible for more than 90 per cent of all COVID-19 cases.

Studies suggest two doses of the existing mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not good at preventing infection from Omicron.

Multiple studies, however, suggest the vaccines are excellent at keeping symptoms mild, preventing hospitalizations, and shortening the stay and lowering the level of care for those who do get admitted to hospital. Fewer vaccinated Omicron patients, for example, need mechanical ventilation.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on new versions of their vaccines that specifically target the Omicron variant.

Moderna is hoping to get its product into trials early this year. Pfizer said it could have 100 million doses of theirs ready as early as March, and Canada has contracts for boosters from both companies that would include vaccines for variants too.

But Sharma said even with the expedited review process for vaccine variants, that’s “probably not” fast enough.

“By that time, based on what we’ve known about the Omicron wave, it might well and truly be through,” she said. “And then the question is always, ‘is there another variant that’s coming up?’”

The solution, she said, likely lies with vaccines that can target more than one variant at a time.

READ MORE: Omicron may seem unavoidable, but experts say ‘let it rip’ isn’t the solution

The COVID-19 vaccine technical committee of the World Health Organization said the same thing on Jan. 11, noting Omicron is the fifth variant of concern in two years and “is unlikely to be the last.”

Booster shots that heighten antibody development became the immediate response to Omicron for many governments, including Canada.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a British Columbia pediatrician and co-chair of the WHO’s clinical research committee on COVID-19, told The Canadian Press that boosters aren’t a long-term viable option.

“Boosting your way out of a pandemic is going to inevitably shoot you in the foot in the sense that you’re going to have a future variant that’s going to emerge that’s going to cause problems,” he said. “It’s going to evade your vaccines, and then you’re going to have to scramble.”

Omicron doesn’t evade the existing vaccines entirely but a future variant could, he said. The issue largely stems from the fact that the original vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize what is called the spike protein found on the surface of a virus, and that spike protein is mutating significantly.

Think of the mutated spike protein as a bit of a disguise that makes it harder for the immune system to recognize the virus and mount a defence to kill it off.

Omicron has more than 50 mutations, and at least 36 are on the spike protein.

Multivalent vaccines that use the spike protein from more than one variant, or that target the genetic components of a virus rather than the spike protein, are possibly the ones that could offer protection for both this pandemic and the next novel coronavirus that emerges.

“It’s pan-coronavirus, where it’s looking at big broad neutralizing responses and you don’t have to update it every season and so on,” said Murthy. “That’s been the Holy Grail of flu vaccinology for the past number of decades. We haven’t achieved that yet, because flu is a bit tricky, but we think that it’s achievable for coronavirus, specifically.”

The United States Army has a version heading into Phase 2 trials that can attach multiple spike proteins. A vaccine with the specific spike proteins from all five COVID-19 variants of concern would likely be more successful, even against future variants, because they all share some of the same mutations and what one might miss another may catch.

Moderna is working on trials for multivalent vaccines using combinations of the spike proteins from the original virus and one of the variants, or two of the variants together. It’s not clear when they would be ready for use.

Sharma said even if the vaccines aren’t working as well against variants as they were against the original virus, to her “they’re still miraculous.”

“To have a vaccine that was developed that quickly, that still has, through multiple variants … with boosters, up to 70, 80 per cent effectiveness against serious disease, ailments, hospitalization and death,” she said. “That is miraculous for a new vaccine for a new virus.”

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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Canada approves Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, seeks supplies

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Canada on Monday approved Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in people aged 18 and older but said supply shortages would keep doses from being made available immediately.

Infections and hospitalizations due the Omicron variant have been rising in Canada, forcing provinces to put in restrictions and the federal government to support impacted businesses.

“(This) is particularly important, as access to easy to use treatments could help to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in adults who become newly infected at high risk of progressing to serious illness,” said chief public health officer Theresa Tam.

Pfizer’s two-drug antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness, according to data from the company’s clinical trial.

It is meant to be taken at home for five days beginning shortly after onset of symptoms.

Ottawa said last month it had signed a deal with Pfizer for a million treatment courses, pending approval. But getting those supplies could face hurdles.

“While there is currently limited global supply of Paxlovid, we are working to firm up a delivery schedule with the intent of bringing treatment courses to Canada as quickly as possible,” Tam told a briefing.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, is seeing signs that Omicron cases may have peaked, said chief medical officer Kieran Moore.

“I’m starting to have much more hope … the number of cases is decelerating instead of accelerating in terms of hospitalizations and (people admitted to) intensive care units,” he told an Ottawa radio station.

Official data show that as of Jan 8, 87.8% of Canadians aged 12 and above had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. authorized the Pfizer treatment for people ages 12 and older last month.

Canada is still looking at whether to approve Merck & Co’s oral antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which had less impressive results than Paxlovid in its pivotal clinical trial.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)

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January 16, 2022 coronavirus update for Oakville – Oakville News

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This is Oakville’s coronavirus update for Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. As children head back to school tomorrow, the main takeaway from today’s COVID-19 update is the increase in the number of outbreaks in long-term care, retirement, and hospital facilities. OTMH is now dealing with two outbreaks as a new one was declared at 5 South, and the province has 231 hospitals recording ongoing outbreaks, an increase nice.

Hospital status

A new outbreak at OTMH was declared but not shown on the region’s update of Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. Halton does not provide new information on weekends or holidays. 

  • Oakville – 70 patients – plus 6
  • Halton – 126 patients – plus 10
  • Ontario – 3,595 patients – minus 362 (ICU 563 plus 19, Ventilators 327 plus 19)

Outbreaks

There are currently nine active outbreaks with 58 cases (LTC-41, retirement homes-13, hospitals-2) in Oakville. 

Ontario

Long-term care facilities status

  • 424 ongoing outbreaks -plus 9
  • 27,391 cases – plus 320
  • 39,06 resident deaths – plus 9

Retirement homes

  • 319 ongoing outbreaks – plus 16

Hospitals

  • 231 ongoing outbreaks – plus 16

Vaccination status

Halton 

  • 1st Dose (5+) – 90%
  • 2nd Dose (5+) – 83%
  • Boosters (18+) – 48%

Ontario administered 117,300 vaccinations

  • 1st Dose (5+) – 82%
  • 2nd Dose (5+) – 3%

Case status

The number of confirmed new cases in Oakville, Halton and Ontario is under-reported since the province restricted access to testing, limiting it to high-risk individuals, healthcare providers, and patients. 

Halton

  • 36,184 cases – plus 552 or 5,962.2 cases per million
  • 634.6 new weekly cases per 100,000, down 15.9 per cent from 2 weeks ago

Ontario

  • 948,086 total cases – plus 10,450 or 6,434.7 cases per million
  • 503.1 new weekly cases per 100,000, down 22.4 per cent from 2 weeks ago
  • 843,073 recoveries –  plus 15,317
  • 10,605 deaths – plus 40
  • 94,408 active cases – minus 4,907

**Vaccine booking: Halton continues to book first and second-dose vaccinations for all residents age five and older, plus third-dose boosters for all adults age 18 and up.

Parents must make booster doses and appointments for children in advance, but first and second doses for those 12 and up are available on a walk-in basis.

All vaccines approved for use in Canada effectively protect you against COVID-19 and all known variants of concern.

CLICK HERE to book a first, second or third vaccination appointment at a Halton Region vaccine clinic

The evidence is clear: vaccination is the best way to be protected. Local, provincial, national and international health units all affirm the same data that Canada’s approved vaccines effectively protect you from COVID-19 and significantly reduce your risks of getting sick, going to the hospital, and dying from the disease.

Pictured right is a graph from the Halton region showing how dramatically your risk of getting sick or being admitted to hospital is when vaccinated.

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