Staying Ahead of COVID
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Staying Ahead of COVID

Another year, another COVID variant.

As you may have heard, there’s yet another variant of COVID making itself known, especially in the northeastern U.S. Called XBB.1.5, or “Kraken," the latest strain is gaining traction and likely contributed to a recent rise in hospitalizations and COVID deaths.

If you’ve been recently boosted, you may be thinking you need not worry about getting sick. Sorry to say, you may want to think again. Here’s why:

First, Kraken has a demonstrated ability to evade antibodies acquired from past infections or vaccinations. In addition, the booster many of us received in the summer or fall wasn’t formulated to fight this then-unknown variant.

Second, people are spending more time inside and in the close company of others during the winter months—pretty much a recipe for disaster when there’s a highly contagious virus present. Add to that fewer people wearing masks compared to 2020 and it’s really no wonder that we’re seeing COVID numbers tick back up.

The good news in all this is there are still ways to protect yourself. The first way is to get vaccinated or boosted.

While no vaccine can be 100% effective all the time, current COVID vaccines can help minimize symptoms if you get sick, reduce the duration of your illness, and lessen your chances of needing hospitalization or going on a ventilator. Vaccines and boosters are particularly important for anyone who is immunocompromised.

And as tired as we all are of wearing masks in public, they really are your best protection against catching not just COVID, but also colds and flu. Anytime in you’re in place where you can’t maintain a distance of three feet or more between yourself and others, mask up.

Masks are just one element of what many in the healthcare field call “respiratory etiquette.” These practices serve to protect others from catching anything you may have contracted, often before you even know it. Other respiratory practices include:

  • Covering your mouth when coughing
  • Washing your hands regularly and especially after coughing or touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Not going to work or out in public when unwell

This last point is especially important as at this stage in the pandemic it can be really difficult to differentiate between COVID, common colds, and the flu.

Here’s are some of the common symptoms with each:

NOTE: you may or may not experience all the symptoms listed.

COMMON COLD
Sore throat
Runny nose
Sneezing
Coughing
Headache
Body aches

FLU
Fever and/or chills
Cough
Runny or stuffy nose
Fatigue
Headache
Body aches
Vomiting
Diarrhea

COVID
Fever or chills
New loss of taste or smell
Cough
Fatigue
Headache
Body aches
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Congestion/runny nose
Sore throat
Nausea and/or vomiting
Diarrhea

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you’re not sure what you have, be safe and test for COVID.

Free COVID tests are available through the US government. Call 1-800-232-0233 or visit covid.gov/tests to order four free tests for your household.

Donna Barron BA, RN, CIC is an infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

 

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