Is it COVID or a cold? How to know as Omicron cases rise | CBC News


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The Public Well being Company of Canada (PHAC) says a resurgence of COVID-19 seems to be underway, fuelled by the extremely transmissible Omicron variant. On the similar time, most COVID restrictions have been lifted throughout the nation, extra adults are heading again to workplaces, and youngsters, for essentially the most half, now not need to put on masks in colleges.

“As of March 31, day by day common case counts have elevated by 28 per cent nationally,” Canada’s Chief Public Well being Officer Theresa Tam stated throughout a briefing final week. 

It appears everybody both is aware of somebody who’s sick or they’re sick themselves. Two of the medical doctors who spoke to CBC Information for this story just lately examined constructive. 

However with restricted entry to PCR assessments throughout Canada, some who’re getting sick are questioning if they’ve COVID or a chilly or the flu — and what they ought to do if they’ve COVID-like signs however do not really really feel so unwell. 

We’ll reply a few of these questions right here.  

WATCH | Why Omicron circumstances are on the rise and find out how to blunt transmission: 

Canada’s Chief Public Well being Officer Theresa Tam says that every time public well being measures are relaxed, a resurgence of COVID-19 circumstances could be anticipated. Tam says she encourages individuals to proceed sporting masks to maintain the pandemic below management. 1:45

Is it COVID or only a chilly? 

It is not possible to know for positive whether or not you’ve COVID-19 with no take a look at, stated Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency doctor in Edmonton. 

“There is not any particular symptom or lack of symptom that may say for positive it’s COVID or not.”

The current list of possible COVID-19 symptoms in Canada is lengthy – 14 in all. And PHAC warns that signs fluctuate from one individual to a different, and that age is usually a issue. 

Proper now, among the mostly skilled signs of COVID-19 embody:

  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nostril.
  • Sneezing.
  • New or worsening cough.
  • Fatigue. 
  • Shortness of breath or problem respiratory.
  • Temperature equal to or greater than 38 C.

“Many individuals who’ve COVID an infection really feel nearly nothing or very delicate signs — particularly in the event that they’re younger and wholesome — versus some individuals as they begin to get into their 40s, 50s and upwards appear to be rather more symptomatic,” stated Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious illness physician and researcher at Dalhousie College in Halifax.

And a as soon as telltale signal has all however disappeared. 

“That lack of style and odor, which was form of a warning symptom of, like, that is very seemingly COVID … that has developed out of the virus, the place it is much less distinguished now,” stated Barrett. 

What medical doctors say they’re seeing extra of with Omicron is gastrointestinal signs, particularly diarrhea, but additionally vomiting and stomach ache. 

Nonetheless, the underside line is that testing is the one method to know for positive whether or not you’ve COVID-19. 

In case you have manageable signs, like a gentle chilly, must you nonetheless do a COVID-19 take a look at? 

Docs say sure. 

“The aim of a fast take a look at is to not let you know you are not contaminated,” stated Barrett.

“The aim of a fast take a look at at this level is to let you know, when you do have a constructive, that it is extremely seemingly that you’ve Omicron, or COVID.”

And figuring out that’s essential for a number of causes. 

“In case you’re an individual at excessive danger, getting a take a look at would make you eligible for antiviral therapy,” stated Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency doctor in Toronto. 

He recommends anybody who’s aged, immunocompromised, or who has a number of medical circumstances to get a fast antigen take a look at on the very least, although a PCR could be finest. Nonetheless, he stated a constructive fast take a look at “would put you in line to get these new antiviral medicines,” together with Remdesivir or Paxlovid.

Speedy testing can be really helpful if you’re younger or in any other case wholesome, for just a few causes.

A fast house take a look at for COVID-19 reveals a adverse end result. (David Horemans/CBC)

“Within the case of a state of affairs the place someone may be unlucky sufficient to develop long COVID, it is essential to have that documentation of getting had COVID,” stated Mithani.

She stated it is also essential to know so to let anybody you have been in shut contact with know that they have been uncovered to the virus. 

I’ve heard fast assessments do not work on Omicron, so what is the use?  

It is not solely clear but why the fast assessments do not appear to select up Omicron as successfully as they picked up earlier variants.

Barrett stated it’s too early to know whether or not it’s the variant itself that’s harder to select up, or whether or not there’s much less viral load to detect as a result of individuals getting sick have some degree of immunity from vaccination or earlier an infection. 

However there are methods to make the take a look at more practical. 

First, take a look at extra usually.

“Testing each 24 hours when you’re symptomatic,” stated Mithani.

“For no less than for each single day that you simply’re symptomatic, I’d take a look at day by day you probably have entry to that variety of fast assessments. If not, then you possibly can stretch it out each one to 2, or one to 3 days, simply to ration assessments a bit bit.”

Second, transcend your nostril.

“Swab each your throat and your nostril to enhance the sensitivity or the accuracy of the take a look at,” stated Mithani.

She advises swabbing your throat first, round the place your tonsils are and the place the uvula is within the center.

“Swab it aggressively,” she stated, “after which swab each of your nostrils.”

Pirzada stated you possibly can swab your cheek, too, in between doing all of your throat and nostril.

Docs say swabbing the throat and cheek, together with the nostril, could make fast COVID-19 assessments more practical. Right here, a lady is seen having her throat swabbed at a coronavirus testing website in Beijing Wednesday. (Andy Wong/The Related Press)

That stated, he factors out some rapid tests have been found to perform better than others. And the entire medical doctors agreed that simply since you take a look at adverse, that doesn’t imply you do not have COVID.

“As quickly as you develop any cold-like signs, that is an indication that you simply may need it,” stated Pirzada.

“The fast take a look at, even when it is adverse, do not take that as gospel, particularly proper now.”

Does the color of nasal discharge point out whether or not it’s extra seemingly COVID? 

No. Colored mucus — inexperienced or yellow, and typically foul-smelling — usually comes from a sinus an infection, stated Pirzada, which could be bacterial. However he stated clear or colored mucus is not going to let you know with any certainty whether or not it’s COVID. You could take a look at. 

I do not know anybody with the flu — is it nonetheless round? 

Influenza charges remain low for this time of year, in line with PHAC’s FluWatch report. Actually, it says there was “no proof of group circulation of influenza” throughout the complete 2021-2022 season.

Regardless of doing related numbers of lab assessments for flu, the test positivity rate is “exceptionally low” throughout Canada, at 0.13 per cent, in comparison with a median of 23 per cent take a look at positivity for a similar interval up to now six pre-pandemic seasons. 

This flu season (which started Aug. 29, 2021) has seen simply 551 influenza detections reported, in comparison with a median of 38,193 by this level up to now six pre-pandemic flu seasons. 

Docs present flu vaccinations to sufferers of their underground parkade in Vancouver in October 2020. Flu charges have been extraordinarily low throughout Canada for the 2021-22 season. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Mithani stated medical doctors are seeing circumstances of influenza in Edmonton hospitals, and if somebody high-risk is available in with signs and assessments adverse for COVID-19, they are going to be examined for influenza. It is a lot the identical in different provinces, too. 

Pirzada stated anybody excessive danger in Ontario will even be examined for influenza if the COVID PCR take a look at in hospital is adverse. 

“So we’re nonetheless testing for it, it is simply not coming again constructive fairly often,” stated Pirzada. 

“Some strains of flu have really gone extinct for the reason that pandemic began.”

Younger kids who current at hospital with COVID-like signs will even be examined for flu and different respiratory diseases, together with RSV. 

If individuals are masking and being cautious, why are they nonetheless getting colds or flu? 

Whereas COVID-19 is primarily airborne, colds and flu unfold extra on surfaces, too, so Pirzada stated it is attainable individuals are catching them that method.

The opposite factor, he stated, is kids.

“Kids are spreading these viruses with gusto with one another, they usually’re bringing it house. And you then, you probably have kids, are spreading it to different individuals at your office.”

One of the simplest ways to keep away from colds and flu, along with persevering with to put on a masks, is the age-old recommendation to scrub your arms and never contact your face. 

Kids, similar to these seen enjoying collectively at Dream Magic daycare in Val-d’Or, Quebec, are a essential supply of unfold of colds and different viruses. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

What is the greatest misunderstanding about COVID-19 proper now?

“Essentially the most harmful one is that COVID residing means pretending it is not round,” stated Barrett.   

“That if you’re someone who needs to dwell with COVID, that you must overlook about it and simply do what you probably did earlier than COVID — the identical quantity of interplay, the identical kind of interplay with no masks, no testing, no isolation. That’s the harmful false impression.”

Pirzada stated it is also essential to keep in mind that when you get COVID, it doesn’t suggest you will not get it once more. 

“Even when when you get sick now … immunity to COVID could be very quick, so you might get sick within the subsequent wave in two or three months.”

He stated there must be a transfer to insurance policies that reduce down on the quantity of circulating virus, “like good air flow, masking in indoor areas when there’s large waves like this, and the fast assessments.”  

WATCH | Why this physician says masks are nonetheless essential:  

Masks mandates ought to be prolonged in Quebec, physician says

Dr. Christopher Labos spoke with CBC Information in regards to the pandemic’s sixth wave in Quebec, and the way he thinks it is best for masks mandates to proceed in the interim, to cut back the danger of hospitalizations. 6:01

“Crucial factor is what I name the vaccine-plus plan,” stated Barrett. 

“Which is get all of the [vaccine] doses that you are eligible to get. Put on a masks indoors — it is not good, but it surely’s definitely useful. After which, the place out there, take a look at and isolate and preserve your contact quantity average. You do not have to remain house, however maintaining it average.”

She stated that when you do exit to a restaurant or different indoor gathering with out sporting a masks, attempt to keep away from seeing susceptible individuals for 3 days after to be sure you do not develop signs. And if you’ll want to work together with somebody who’s excessive danger, distance, put on a masks and practise good hand hygiene. 

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