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Early Signs You've Caught Coronavirus

COVID cases are rising and here's what to know, according to an expert. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The surge experts have been predicting is here. COVID-19 cases are rising and the New York Times reports that some schools are reinforcing mask mandates as a result. Many states like California are seeing a drastic increase in cases. According to the Los Angeles Times,  "The number of coronavirus cases in California has significantly worsened this past week, hitting a level not seen since the winter's Omicron surge and raising concerns about the possibility of a big jump in infections this summer." Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, DrPH, Director and Founding Dean, UCI Program in Public Health who explained what to know about COVID right now and COVID signs to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Early Signs That Indicate Someone Could Have COVID?

Woman suffering from sore throat.

Dr. Boden-Albala says, "COVID affects everyone differently, but in general, early symptoms we've seen include sore throat, cough, headache, fatigue, and congestion, among others. Symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after initial exposure, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research indicates that for Omicron – the dominant strain right now – symptoms tend to develop after three days."


What To Know About COVID Right Now

tired nurse, burnout

According to Dr. Boden-Albala, "We're experiencing a surge right now. The U.S. is averaging over 100,000 known cases per day for the first time since February, and that number is more than three times higher than what we were seeing this time a year ago. Much of this is due to the four highly transmissible Omicron sub variants circulating throughout the world. Unless we modify our public health response to include more vaccine coverage nationwide, masking, social distancing, and greater awareness of prevention strategies in general, we can expect future surges throughout the year. We can't allow this virus to continue mutating and potentially evolve into a more transmissible strain that produces severe disease and evades our vaccines."


How To Tell COVID From The Flu

woman lying sick at home couch

Dr. Boden-Albala explains, "Both viruses attack the respiratory system, but COVID tends to spread more easily and produce more severe illness in some people, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell them apart by looking at symptoms alone because they tend to present with the same symptoms. Fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, congestion, headache, and body aches are all symptoms that the two share. Testing is the most reliable way of confirming if you have the flu or COVID. There are some key differences in how soon symptoms appear after exposure and infection. Generally, if a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to experience symptoms. A person with the flu will likely start to see symptoms appear anywhere from 1-4 days after infection, while COVID has a wider range of two to 14 days (with the exception of Omicron, which tends to produce symptoms after about three days)."


Best Ways To Help Avoid COVID

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.

"Vaccines are the answer," Dr. Boden-Albala emphasizes. "The best way to protect yourself and others is to be fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters. That means completing your primary course of vaccines and getting booster shots if eligible. Right now, the CDC recommends that everyone ages 5 years and older should get one booster after completing their COVID-19 vaccine primary series, and 2 boosters for adults ages 50 and older as well as people ages 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. People should also practice other risk mitigation strategies like masking and social distancing when appropriate. Equally important is being aware of your COVID-19 community level, which you can check regularly on the CDC website. We should still be cautious and evaluate our personal risk wherever we go, even though many of the past mandates have been lifted. The responsibility is now up to us as individuals, and we can't be afraid to mask up or social distance in certain situations and seasons."


First Things To Do After You've Tested Positive For COVID?

Man self tests for COVID-19 home test kit.

Dr. Boden-Albala says, "The first thing you should do is determine how long you need to isolate or quarantine at home. You can use the CDC Quarantine and Isolation Calculator to do this. You should then stay home except to get medical care, regardless of how mild your illness is, and notify your primary care provider that you've contracted COVID-19. Try to stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home as well to protect others. If being around others is unavoidable, wear a well-fitting mask."


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 mask, don'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.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather