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New COVID variants fuel a surge in cases

As much as we may wish for the COVID pandemic to be over, two newer Omicron variants—BA.4 and BA.5—are fueling a surge of new and repeat cases. BA.5 is the most contagious variant to date.

Mayo Clinic Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Dr. Greg Poland said in an interview with WCCO TV-Minneapolis, "We are in a not good place and that is not realized by the population who doesn't even want to hear that,"

"Even though we aren't experiencing the same surge right now as much of the rest of the nation, we will be," Dr. Poland added.

Part of the delay in reporting comes because many of the COVID testing sites are now closed and many people are relying on at-home testing. People don't always report that they have COVID from using an at-home test. Also, the accuracy of at-home tests is in question.

According to a report from CBS news-Los Angeles, " *[When] Asked how accurate the home test kits are in detecting new variants, infectious disease doctor at Cedars Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, Dr. Jeff Galpin said the tests are not as reliable as they once were."

"'Less accurate than they were and probably 60% maybe,' Dr. Galpin said. 'We don't have good data.'"

Those aren't good statistics when dealing with a potentially life-threatening disease that is known to cause a lot of other problems, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the ongoing symptoms for those with long-haul or post-COVID-19 syndrome COVID include:

  • Fatigue

  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort

  • Fever

  • Lung (respiratory) symptoms, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath and cough

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Neurological symptoms or mental health conditions, including difficulty in thinking or concentrating, headache, sleep problems, dizziness when you stand, pins-and-needles feeling, loss of smell or taste, and depression or anxiety

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Heart symptoms or conditions, including chest pain and fast or pounding heartbeat

  • Digestive symptoms, including diarrhea and stomach pain

  • Blood clots and blood vessel (vascular) issues, including a blood clot that travels to the lungs from deep veins in the legs and blocks blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)

  • Other symptoms, such as a rash and changes in the menstrual cycle.

Dr. Poland also stated that patients are also showing shrinkage of the brain of 2-4% which is leading to a drop in cognitive ability.

A lot of Americans are not only reporting their first infection but many are also reporting second infections. Each reinfection is creating a new chance for people to have serious health risks including those listed above and more.

Clinical Epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly told WCCO, "Some people when they get infected the first time, that infection may weaken their immune system in a way or produce some organ damage that makes them more vulnerable to having adverse consequences or adverse health risks after they get the second infection."

One of those "adverse consequences" is more than twice the risk of dying! According to Dr. Al-Aly, they are also 3x more at risk of being hospitalized and have greater odds of getting long-haul COVID.

Personally, having had COVID-19 in November of 2020, I can tell you that it was no picnic. I was very ill, not to the point of hospitalization but my breathing was such that I needed to take in more breaths before I had even fully exhaled the last one. The doctor said that this was a very odd symptom.

Now, experiencing many of the effects of long-haul COVID (one of the many names that post-COVID sufferers refer to the ongoing illness by), I can tell you that if you can avoid getting COVID in the first place—do whatever it takes to avoid it!

Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Dr. Michael Osterholm told WCCO, "We are still learning a lot about this virus and it's changing so quickly."

He also said that the vaccine is still the best defense against COVID and its variants. Still, a booster needs to be created that will target the variants.

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