Sure Signs It's COVID You Have Now, Say Doctors on the Frontlines
The BA.2.12.1 subvariant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. and up to 27% more contagious than BA.2. Luckily, the surges don't necessarily mean a rise in hospitalizations and severe disease. "Until we get to that steady state, we should expect that every subsequent wave is less severe than the one before it," says Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious disease fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. "In general, we can expect that, over time, the overall burden of severe disease is going to go down." Here are five signs you have COVID, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
COVID-19 Is Everywhere, Again
As the BA.2.12.1 subvariant continues to spread across the country, public health officials are warning if it feels like COVID, it probably is COVID. "[Cases are] up 27% from a week ago," says Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. "You can see our positivity is up to 6.2% and continuing to rise. So that's why I'm guessing most of you know somebody who's had COVID pretty recently, or even has it now. There's a lot of COVID around."
How Long Should You Quarantine For?
If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home. "Let's say somebody is diagnosed with COVID and they are in a setting during a time that they might be infectious, we know that with COVID, for the first five days you need to be isolated because you can definitely be spreading COVID at that point," says Dr. Arwady. Even if you test negative, some health officials recommend wearing a mask until you feel better.
Do Not Assume You Are Immune
Being infected by Omicron does not protect against new variants, doctors say, but a combination of past infection combined with vaccination could help. "Omicron by itself sweeping through the world is not going to induce a very robust immune status protective against other variants in the future if you are not vaccinated," says Dr. Melanie Ott, an author and a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology at the University of California San Francisco. "The message is really get vaccinated even if you have been infected."
Cases Are Not As Severe This Time
Virus experts are noting that symptoms of BA.2.12.1 are not as severe as previous variants. "The nature of the disease has changed," says Dr. Jonathan Dworkin, a clinical infectious diseases physician in Hawaii. "Two years ago I was seeing a steady flow of bad pneumonia cases. Now we are in a situation where people should be able to avoid that outcome by taking advantage of vaccines, pre-exposure prophylaxis (for high risk), and early antiviral therapy."
What Are Symptoms of COVID, Now?
Symptoms of BA.2.12.1 are once again mimicking those of a cold or flu—mainly fatigue and a runny nose, plus headaches, coughing, sneezing, and a sore throat, according to experts. "We've been seeing a lot more of sore throat and pharyngitis that we didn't really see before," says Nancy Crum, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Avita Health System in Galion, Ohio.
"Patients can also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, and loss of taste or loss of smell, although I've seen that a lot less with the newer variants."
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.