I'm a Virus Expert and Still Say Don't Go Here, Even if it's Open
Although COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed, the pandemic continues to rage on and BA.5 is still sweeping across the United States causing cases to rise. Experts warn not taking safety precautions can lead to reinfections and increase the risk for long COVID, as well as other health complications and advise to stay away from certain virus hotspots. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Suman Radhakrishna, Director of Infectious Disease with Dignity Healthy California Hospital who shares what to know about COVID right now and where to avoid going in an effort to help prevent catching BA.5. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About COVID Right Now
Dr. Radhakrishna says, "COVID has mutated several times since 2020. Current mutant is more contagious. It can cause serious illness in individuals other illnesses such as cancer, transplants, elderly, poorly controlled diabetes and the morbidly obese. Several individuals will recall many bouts of COVID infection and immunity is short lived."
The Dangers of Getting Reinfected with COVID Multiple Times
According to Dr. Radhakrishna, "We are still collecting information from individuals who have been reinfected with COVID multiple times. Risk for long COVID symptoms is likely to increase."
The American Heart Association states, "Some preliminary research suggests what multiple bouts of COVID-19 might mean for heart and brain health. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, using data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that reinfection raised people's risks of cardiovascular and other complications when compared with people who had one infection. The risk grew with the number of infections."
UC Davis Health reports, "Emerging research is finding that with each repeat COVID infection – even asymptomatic infection — you increase your risk for complications including stroke, heart attack, diabetes, digestive and kidney disorders and long-term cognitive impairment, including dementia…Each reinfection also carries with it the risk of Long COVID, a syndrome with ongoing COVID symptoms that can last for weeks or months after infection."
There's No Immunity with BA.5 and Experts are Learning What That Means for Long COVID
UC Davis Health explains, "The main reason this variant [BA.5] has become the predominant one that is now circulating is that it is able to evade previous immunity," said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "Even people who have partial immunity from a previous infection or vaccination can still have a breakthrough infection…That means even if you were infected in 2020 with Delta or even Omicron BA.1 last winter, you can still get BA.5. Your previous immunity does not protect you from the latest strain."
Dr. Radhakrishna tells us, "We are yet to clearly understand who gets long COVID. We know that individuals with mild disease can also have symptoms of long COVID. Currently available vaccines do not have the ability to prevent infections with BA 5. We anticipate that similar to prior variants, the vaccine may prevent severe illness. Long COVID risk only occurs in infected individuals. Hence avoidance of infection is still advisable."
Taking Safety Precautions is Key in Trying to Prevent Infection
Dr. Radhakrishna says, "COVID prevention has moved from mandates to personal precautions. Anyone who is feeling unwell should test and quarantine until symptoms have improved and the test is negative. There is no foolproof test in the market. Hence a negative test should also be considered positive and quarantine precautions continued until symptoms have resolved. Staying healthy – regular exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet helps boost the immune system. Regular checkup with your clinician to control chronic illness is also very helpful."
Dr. Radhakrishna advises attending, "Any large gathering of individuals who are not living together such as a concert, weddings, group travel are sites for transmission. Test before you go to avoid infecting others when asymptomatic, test a few days after the event to confirm negative results. If symptomatic, call the organizer and alert others of possible exposure. In addition, avoid visiting individuals who are ill, regardless of COVID test result." 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.