Greetings readers in 2022. Unfortunately we start the year with a Covid Omicron surge so this post will answer common questions I am getting from patients. I hope this information is helpful.
Q: If vaccination is so helpful, why does everyone now seem to have Covid even if they are double and triple vaccinated?
A: Omicron is very effective at dodging our innate immune systems and so it is very very transmissible (contagious). If you are in a crowded room and someone with active Covid sneezes or sings, it's likely many will get infected, especially unvaccinated people. The vaccinations are doing exactly what they are meant to do. Depending upon your age, you are 2-10X more likely to get Covid if you have NOT had the vaccine. If you are over 65 you are 13X more likely to be hospitalized and 15X more likely to die of Covid if unvaxed. The vaccine doesn't prevent catching the Omicron variant. It helps prevent severe illness and death. Vaccinated people are getting Covid, usually with no or mild symptoms, because it is so contagious.
Q: Does the home antigen test and the PCR test pick up the Omicron variant?
Q: My home test says I have Covid but I have no symptoms and I have been really careful. Could it be incorrect?
A: If the test is positive, you should assume you have Covid. The home antigen tests are quite sensitive for picking up Covid and it is rare to have a false positive test result. A negative test, however, cannot be fully trusted. It could miss a positive because of the testing technique, not enough antigen to show up (timing of test), or a recent booster that blocks some of the viral antigens. The PCR test is more sensitive and if you think you have Covid and your rapid test is negative you could test again in 1-2 days or get a PCR test.
Q: Should I swab my throat with the rapid test, as well as nose?
A: The official recommendation is to follow test instructions. But Omicron antigens are found prominently in the throat so for better results I recommend swabbing the throat and then the nose.
Q: When can I get the new Covid anti-viral pill?
A: Pfizer's newly FDA approved treatment, Paxlovid, will only be available in very limited quantities for several months while they ramp up production. It is an oral pill to be taken within the first 5 days of symptoms, twice daily for 5 days. It is meant for people who are at high risk (older, fatter, immune compromised, diabetes, chronic lung or kidney disease etc) to prevent severe infection and hospitalization.
Merck also has a drug called Molnupiravir that was FDA approved but it may not be as effective.
Both of these new drugs may react with other medications a person is taking and they are not for everyone.
Q: With Omicron surging, what is the best way for me to stay safe?
A: High quality masks and avoiding crowded indoor spaces are the most effective way to prevent infection. Avoid the 3 Cs - close, crowded, confined. Two years into this pandemic, we have let down our guard. I see people shaking hands, hugging and just getting too darn close without masks. Avoid air and public transportation travel if possible because of the close contacts. Get vaccinated and boosted.
Finally, Do NOT go to the emergency room for Covid testing or mild symptoms. Our ERs and hospitals are swamped. If you are vaccinated, think of Covid as the flu. If you have symptoms and no way to get a test, (which are still in short supply), stay home, take Advil or Tylenol, drink fluid and eat only high nutrient foods. If you are alone, get home delivery of food.
If you have other questions put them in the comments and I will do part 2.