The United States is in the middle of another Corona virus Serge, this time thanks to the omicron subvariant BA.5. Scientists have warned that the new subvariant appears to be the most transmissible version of the virus to date, and that it is re-infecting people who have already dealt with previous variants once or twice, sometimes weeks before.
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A small percentage of people who ignore it COVID-19 For 2 1/2 years BA.5 is also figuring out ways to slip past his defenses. President Joe Biden, who survived the infection, also tested positive on Thursday. Like many Americans, Biden and his aides have let their guard down, loosening strict COVID-19 precautions previously employed in the White House.
Everyone just wants to get back to normal, even though polls show that few Americans are sure what living with COVID-19 should really look like. Many cities are unlikely to bring back mask mandates or other protective measures that were previously used EpidemicOr even on the original Omicron Surge.
“We’ve changed our baseline,” said Michael Osterholm, a public health researcher and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Hospitalizations have nearly doubled since May and more than 400 Americans are dying each day, but these numbers are significantly lower than the peak of the winter micron wave.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we would never have accepted these numbers,” Osterholm said.
There is also the possibility of developing long-term symptoms COVID-19, which researchers are trying to fully understand. Still, experts are weighing in on those concerns.
“We can live our lives knowing full well that this risk exists,” said bioethicist Diane Ho of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
The question is: What public health measures should the nation prioritize? And what can you do personally to reduce your risk of exposure, to slow down the relentless cycle of new forms and to reduce the disruption of daily life? Here are five steps, if you haven’t already.
1. Max out your vaccines and boosters.
If you haven’t received yours booster — or any shots — experts say the recent surge is a good reason to schedule an appointment now. Vaccines provide excellent protection against serious diseases and booster shots can extend those benefits. But fewer than half of Americans have received boosters, and less than a third of adults eligible for a second booster (or fourth shot) — those who are immunocompromised or over 50 — have received it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “absolutely Vaccinated“Describing the first two doses of vaccines early in the pandemic didn’t help. Although the agency has switched to requiring people to be “up to date” with all their shots, the initial use of “fully vaccinated” has unfortunately stuck.
“A lot of people have said, ‘I took my two shots and I’m done,'” Osterholm said.
Some people may also be discouraged by new research that shows a significant reduction in immunity to infection within three months, and that new Omicron subvariants are more adept at dodging the immune system than previous versions of the virus, Osterholm added.
Newer vaccines are more targeted towards the omicron subvariants It will likely arrive in the fall, and the Biden administration is considering expanding booster eligibility. But if you’re in a high-risk group that qualifies for second boosters, you shouldn’t try to play around with the timing of your shots. According to the CDC, getting vaccinated now “will not prevent you from getting official variant-specific vaccines in the fall or winter when they are recommended for you.”
2. Find your new community COVID-19 indicators.
You should keep an eye on the COVID-19 statistics to determine your risk and decide when to add additional layers of protection. For most epidemics, the CDC’s color-coded map of community-level exposure was a good indicator of cases and transmission rates. But the agency recently changed the way it calculates these risk levels to put more emphasis on local Hospitalization rates.
Case numbers no longer track closely with hospitalizations, due to natural or vaccine immunity, home tests and available treatments, blurring real-time tracking of the virus. Instead, experts recommend using other ways to stay informed about your community’s COVID-19 risks: Watch local news and tap into your social networks.
Talk to your family and friends as well as other members of your community to see if they have recently had COVID-19 or know someone who has, said Ajay Sethi, a public health researcher at the university. Wisconsin-Madison. Because you’re more likely to interact with people in your network, you can better understand what’s happening in your community and what your own risk of getting sick might be.
When your closest contacts are received COVID-19 Or getting re-infected multiple times, as many people across the country are now, is a good indicator that you and your friends should start wearing masks and adding more COVID-19 protections.
Some people may be reluctant to share that they have the virus, Sethi said, either because they feel like an outsider, they’re embarrassed to have caught it or because they know the stigma attached to relatives with a different epidemic mindset. But “that’s the opposite of what we should be doing,” he said.
3. Mask up, and not just indoors.
Wear a good quality mask in public places where you need to protect yourself, whether you are infected with COVID-19 or not. Each infection still carries the risk of developing debilitating chronic COVID-19 symptoms, said Caitlin Rivers, a public health researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“For me, the thought process hasn’t changed much,” Rivers said. “When I’m indoors I continue to wear a mask and try to move as much activity outside as possible.”
Other experts agree if you want to go Maskless, outdoor air will be much safer than indoor spaces. But even outside, close people are together, the higher the risk of catching the virus.
“As contagious as BA.5 is, we have to admit that it’s important that you’re not in a crowded situation with limited air,” Osterholm said.
If you’re hosting a summer barbecue, for example, you can invite fewer guests to reduce the risk of virus transmission. You can also check that everyone has been vaccinated and tested negative recently. at large gatheringsLike outdoor concerts or weddings, where you have less control, you should mask up and monitor yourself for new symptoms after a few days, Osterholm said.
4. Keep quick tests handy – and use them.
If used regularly, rapid tests are an effective tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. If you’re only testing after potential exposure, you’re doing it wrong, Sethi said. Instead, book social events by getting tested before and three to five days after large gatherings to better protect yourself and those you meet, he said.
Stock up on rapid tests, especially if you don’t have access to tests through a public testing site or your workplace, said Alyssa Bilinski, a health policy expert at Brown University. Each family can order three rounds of free tests – or a total of 16 tests – from the government. Insured individuals may also be reimbursed for up to eight free tests in a month.
Just remember that you can test negative for COVID-19 even if you have symptoms, Sethi said. Stay in quarantine if you think you are sick. Retest after a day or two to confirm your negative result. And if you have COVID-19, get tested after your symptoms subside or disappear. A positive antigen test is a fairly reliable sign that you are still contagious, even if your symptoms have lessened or disappeared.
When people don’t use them enough, Quick tests Less useful from a public health perspective, Sethi said.
5. If you’re traveling, find out how to treat yourself.
Before you go, prepare for the possibility of getting infected during the trip.
Professor of Infectious Diseases. “It’s a good idea to travel with a printed list of all your current medications, your medical and immunization history, and your provider’s contact information in case you need to seek medical care while traveling,” said Anne Luetkemeyer. Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco.
Keep plenty of room on your credit card and read your health and travel insurance policies carefully to see what expenses they will cover in case you have to extend your trip. COVID-19. And do a little research on the clinics and pharmacies at your destination.
Although you can’t get paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for COVID-19, without a prior diagnosis, you can use the Test to Treat Locator to find places in the United States where testing and immediate treatment are available. Kuldeep Patel, senior associate chief pharmacy officer at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina, said pharmacists can prescribe paxlovide directly to patients who test positive but cannot see a medical provider.
Outside the United States, however, the availability of treatment depends on where you are. Paxlovide and another antiviral called molnupiravir are both on the World Health Organization’s list of recommended drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 and are approved for use in many countries.
But you can also avoid the uncertainty of seeking medicine abroad. If you are at high risk for COVID-19 complications or may be immunocompromised and at risk of reduced vaccine effectiveness, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting the monoclonal antibody treatment Evusheld before you travel, Luetkemeyer said. You may also want to carry over-the-counter drugs — such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, the cough Suppressants and throat lozenges – to help relieve symptoms if you are sick.
You can choose the most harm-reducing steps right now, and those calculations can be different for different people. The country is “struggling to recapture what the risk of COVID looks like,” Bilinski said. But that doesn’t mean we should completely abandon the measures that keep us safe, he added. A BA.5 increase can remind you that there is a middle ground between letting COVID-19 precautions dominate your life and pretending not to. Epidemic finished
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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