The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, and more people are getting sick by the day, including those who have been fully vaccinated and received booster shots.
So what should people who thought they were protected do?
First, recognize the symptoms.
While losing your sense of taste or smell was common with confirmed cases of the delta variant in Washington state, that is happening less often with omicron, according to data from the Department of Health.
The most commonly reported symptoms tied to omicron in Washington state include cough, sore throat, headache, fever and muscle aches.
“If patients do have a vaccination and booster, they are doing everything possible in addition to everything we’re doing to protect them from severe disease,” said Dr. Heather Brennan, a family physician with Kaiser Permanente.
“And that’s the most important thing to remember: Nothing is 100% in medicine, and we’re doing our best to help people stay out of the hospital.”
The first thing to do is wear a mask. Preferably a good one, such as an N95 or KN95. Next, isolate yourself as to not infect others.
Health officials recommend making a plan for what might happen should you test positive for the virus.
“I think with omicron and the pressure for people to go back to work, everyone should have an idea of what happens when someone gets COVID,” said Eric Lofgren, epidemiologist and professor at WSU. “Where will you isolate people? Do you have tests?”
If you test positive, Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez recommends proper hydration, nutrition and lots of rest. Over-the-counter medications to treat fevers and colds are also recommended to treat COVID symptoms, although Velázquez advised consulting with your health care provider as well.
Brennan advises her patients to take ibuprofen or Tylenol to treat headaches, body aches and fevers, and drink lots of water. There’s no harm in taking a cough suppressant to treat respiratory symptoms, she added.
“Treat your symptoms like a typical cold or flu,” Brennan said.
Be on the lookout for more severe symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, new confusion or the inability to wake up.
You should consult with a health care provider if these severe symptoms occur, Velázquez said, since more care might be needed. He also advised consulting with a provider before taking over-the-counter medications that could interfere with other treatments or medications.
New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation guidance says anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms should isolate for at least five days.
People who test positive or have symptoms should take precautions for 10 full days, continuing to wear a mask around anyone, not going places where masks are removed and avoiding travel. The CDC guidance also says people with diagnosed COVID or symptoms should not be around anyone who is high-risk for the virus within 10 days of testing positive.
Stay home, isolate from others at home and wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others in your home for the first five days.
If you had no symptoms: End isolation at least five full days after your positive test.
If you had symptoms: End isolation when your symptoms are improving and you have been fever-free for 24 hours.
If you had severe symptoms: Isolate for at least 10 days and consult your doctor about ending your isolation.
If you have tested positive at a community testing site or were out in the community, someone from your local health district should be reaching out to you, but if you use an at-home test, you can report your results at (800) 525-0127. (North Idaho residents can call the Panhandle Health District COVID-19 hotline at 877-415-5225 for reporting questions.)
Washington residents can also update the WA Notify phone app to alert people you came into contact with recently that you’ve tested positive.
The Department of Health also asks that people notify their close contacts, so that they can get tested or quarantine themselves.
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