Wednesday, January 26, 2022

With Omicron, it can be hard to tell if you have COVID, a cold, or the flu

It starts with a sneeze, perhaps a sniffle.

Think for yourself, is it just a mild allergy or a minor cold. You are not concerned about COVID-19 because the symptoms do not coincide with the typical, often severe indicators of COVID-19: joint pain, violent cough, fever or chills, and a terrible loss of the ability to taste or smell .

But with the Omicron version now the dominant strain in the United States uninfected and fully infected, health experts warn of symptoms that previously helped people figure out whether they had a cold, flu, or COVID-19. -19 are no longer useful markers. were once.

Emily Landon, chief infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, said assessing risk for travel, gathering with others or testing for the coronavirus based on symptoms “is no longer going to work”.

More on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Complicating matters is that the pandemic-hit population must once again revise what they think they know about the coronavirus. Health experts said grids and infographics that suggest certain symptoms are specific to one virus or another, popular on social media, may have been helpful at one time, but are now obsolete with the rise of Omicron. Huh.

“The problem with grids like this is that people look at them and see what they want to see. It’s like looking at your horoscope and saying ‘this applies to me,'” Landon said. The symptom grid and graphics can easily lead people to wrong conclusions, such as believing their symptoms only fit the category of a regular cold, not a coronavirus.

“It’s confirmation bias,” Landon said.

In this omicron-dominant season, the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19 are largely overlapping (with the exception of losing the sense of taste or smell, which remains specific to COVID-19).

“The symptoms are now like a Venn diagram where all the circles are overlapping,” Landon said.

Unsurprisingly, Landon has heard a growing number of patients who have sneezing, stuffy heads and scratchy throats — “things that seem to be more associated with the common cold” — have only tested positive for the coronavirus. Omicron version of .

Some factors that contribute to the blurring of symptoms among viruses include omicron characteristics, symptoms present in vaccinated people, and an increase in cold and flu cases compared to last year’s pandemic cold.

Unlike earlier forms of anxiety, like Delta, Omicron has a higher affinity for the upper respiratory epithelium, Landon said: “It is likely to make people sniffle more, sneeze more, or become congested.”

Especially for vaccinated people, the mildness of Omicron’s symptoms may give them a false sense of belief that they have a cold rather than the highly contagious coronavirus version.

“People who have been vaccinated and have minor cold-like symptoms are less likely to stay at home, and they can spread it to people who can get very sick from it,” Landon said. “Risk discrimination seems huge right now.”

Preliminary real-world data from the United Kingdom found that people infected with the Omicron variant were about 60% less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with Delta. Even though preliminary data indicates that omicrons may not be as dangerous as delta to non-vaccinated individuals, the ease with which omicrons spread still poses a significant threat to the most vulnerable populations.

“So many people are going to get sick that you’ll have a lot of people in hospitals, with long-term COVID and long-term consequences,” Landon said.

There are more cases of the common cold and flu this winter than last year, making it even more difficult to know what you’ve been infected with.

The most recent influenza data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows moderate to high levels of flu activity in many parts of the country.

“Seasonal influenza activity in the United States is increasing, including indicators of hospitalizations, according to the CDC’s Influenza Surveillance Report ending December 11. Flu activity is particularly high in the eastern and central parts of the United States. growing from.

“I think people are moving more than they were a year ago,” said Philip J., a pediatrician, public health physician, and epidemiologist at Boston College. Why colds and flu are making a resurgence to pre-pandemic levels, Landrigan said.

Landrigan said if people want to be honest about not bringing the virus home or spreading it to vulnerable people, get tested regardless of symptoms.

“The reason to test right now is for your peace of mind, but an even more important reason is if you’re going to a gathering and there are vulnerable people,” he said. “If you’re going to a gathering like that, it’s not about you, it’s about protecting the people around you.”

As for the test type, Landrigan said a nasal swab remains the gold standard for determining if you have a cold, flu, or COVID-19.

“When in doubt, test it.”

Nation World News Desk
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