Breakthrough infections of the coronavirus are on the rise in Chicago and Illinois, but health experts say it’s likely the symptoms you experience will depend on the vaccine.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arvadi, the city’s top doctor, said the Omicron variant is not bringing with it a new set of symptoms, but with vaccines now widely available, many are milder depending on their vaccinations. facing cases. Event.
“The symptoms we’re seeing are no different with Omicron than they were with Delta. It’s just that we’re seeing more of what we call breakthrough transitions,” Arvadi said on Wednesday. “So vaccines continue to protect, but not even against infection, although they continue to protect beautifully against serious disease.”
Arvadi said that now, those who have been fully vaccinated are not necessarily “becoming seriously ill and having fever and difficulty breathing for several days,” but they may be experiencing more mild illness. are.
“They can only feel like they have a cold,” she said. “It’s good because they’re not becoming seriously ill, they’re not endangering the healthcare system, but it’s certainly of some concern because they have the potential to transmit to others.”
Arvadi said, however unaffiliated, are experiencing similar symptoms in the early days of the pandemic.
“People who haven’t been vaccinated present the same thing: fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath,” she said.
Arvadi’s comments are similar to those of other medical experts looking into the Omicron cases.
Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be major symptoms of the Omicron variant. But unlike Delta, many patients are not losing their taste or smell.
According to Poehling the evidence so far is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She also noted that these traits may reflect only certain populations.
Still, CDC data showed that by far the most common symptoms are cough, fatigue, congestion and runny nose.
In New York, where cases continue to rise, an ER doctor known for documenting the fight against COVID on social media during the pandemic reported success cases he called “mild” symptoms with booster shots. Have seen
“By mild I mean mostly sore throats. Lots of sore throats,” Craig Spencer wrote on twitter, “Plus some fatigue, maybe some muscle aches. No difficulty in breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but ok.”
Cases in people who were fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine but did not progress remained mild, but were slightly more severe.
“More fatigue. More fever. More cough. Overall a little more pathetic. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty in breathing,” he wrote.
For those with Johnson & Johnson who were not boosted, they “felt terrible” with patients with fever, fatigue, cough and shortness of breath, but did not require hospitalization or oxygen.
In the unrelated, however, the symptoms were more severe.
“Almost every patient I’ve cared for needs to be admitted for COVID,” Spencer wrote. “Everyone with a deep shortness of breath. Everyone whose oxygen fell while walking. Everyone needs oxygen to breathe regularly.”
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm over the new strain, told the BBC that he began seeing patients presenting “unusual symptoms” around 18 November, slightly different from those associated with the delta variant. were different.
“It actually started with a male patient who is around 33 years old…and he told me he was right. [been] He has been very tired for the past few days and is having body aches and pains along with a headache,” she told the BBC.
The patient did not have a sore throat, she said, more than a “scratchy throat” but no cough or loss of taste or smell – symptoms that have been linked to previous strains of the coronavirus.
Coetzee said she tested the male patient for COVID, and that he was positive, as was his family, and then added that he presented more patients that day with similar symptoms that differed from the delta version .
Other patients she had seen so far with the Omicron version also experienced what she described as “extremely mild” symptoms, and she said her colleagues had noted similar cases.
Similarly, in the first US case, the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the person had been vaccinated, but had not received a booster shot and was experiencing “mild symptoms.”
Moderna CEO Stefan Bansel told CNBC that the omicron traits reported in South Africa may not be good predictors of the virulence of the variant in other parts of the world, as the country has a much smaller and healthier population than European countries and the US. .
For now, Arvadi urged anyone who has a cold to assume it is COVID until tests prove otherwise.
“I’d rather err on the side of people assuming this new symptom, regardless of numbers, right now, that it’s likely to be COVID,” she said.
There is no evidence that the Omicron variant is less severe than the delta variant based on reported symptoms, according to early findings from a study by Imperial College London, UK.
A research team led by Professor Neil Ferguson said on Friday: “The study found no evidence of reduced severity of omicrons compared to Delta, either from the proportion of people who test positive who report symptoms.” , or the proportion of cases in hospital care after infection.” In a blog post accompanying the study.
The data included 24 hospitalizations of patients suspected of having an Omicron variant, with the researchers saying “hospitalization data are very limited at this time.” The study is yet to be peer reviewed.
In Illinois, hospitalizations are on the rise.
Alan Spooner, CEO of Franciscan Health South Suburban Chicago, said on Monday that COVID-19 cases in the system’s hospitals have quadrupled in the past three weeks – from 10 to 42%. He added that over 70% of critical care patients have COVID-19, of which 30% require ventilators.
Physician and staff infections have also increased as the latest increase, Spooner said, “extends an already precarious staffing shortage in health care.”
Rex Budde, president and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare, reinforced a similar message.
“The number one thing we can do is get vaccinated,” he said.
Budde said that 40% of the medical beds of Carbondale Hospital are occupied by COVID patients. As is the case in other health systems, he said, to treat COVID patients, the hospital has to draw resources from other parts of the facility and delay treatment for others, including stroke and heart care patients.
“People are dying from this virus who don’t need to die,” he said. “Imagine having a nurse or a physician or a care tech, who has to see it and deal with it every day. Staff is screwed. Nurses are screwed. Physicians are screwed.”
Despite some differences between Omicron and Delta, experts in Chicago say just looking at the symptoms isn’t enough.
“The trick is that you won’t be able to tell the difference between omicron, delta, lambda, plain COVID from the start,” said Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease specialist and chief hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Influenza or even the common rhinovirus causes most of our common cold in the winter. You won’t know the difference between them if you look at your symptoms. For many people, those symptoms are overlapping. And While there are some parts of the Venn diagram like loss of taste, taste and smell, or these other things compared to normal COVID, there is a lot of overlap. You won’t know what kind of disease you have, especially early in the illness. Gotta get tested.”
And getting tested won’t necessarily tell whether you have the Omron version, Landon said.
“When you get a COVID test, they’re just looking to see if you have COVID,” she said. “They’re not the kind to find out the exact strain of COVID. You have to do this thing called sequencing, which takes a lot longer. It’s a lot more intensive. You definitely can’t get back in 24 hours , and this is done only by specialized laboratories.”
Overall, the symptoms of COVID as described by the CDC include:
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle or body pain
- new loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- congestion or runny nose
- nausea or vomiting