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Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Twenty-Nine Months Since Its USA Debut

COVID-19 is still demanding our attention

There is no doubt that we are all weary of having to consider COVID-19 when we make plans to travel, hold an event, to mask or not to mask, should we get a COVID test or booster, and so on.

However, weariness is no excuse for not doing the right thing when protecting yourself, loved ones and friends from COVID. While many things about the pandemic have changed since March 2020, one fact that has not changed is that LSU Health Shreveport is here to serve as a trusted source of information related to COVID-19. We remain committed to providing timely and fact-based information allowing you to make informed decisions for yourself and your family.

At this time, mask-wearing, hand washing and being “up to date” on your vaccine are the optimal prevention tools for contracting COVID and preventing severe illness. The CDC defines “up to date” for those 50 and over as having received the primary series vaccine and two boosters. For those younger than 50, up to date is receiving the primary series of vaccines and one booster unless qualified for a second booster based on immune status or underlying risk factors. Other questions that seem to surface regularly are:

• What action should I take if I have been near someone who tested positive for COVID-19? The answer varies based on your vaccine status. Per the CDC, if your vaccine status is not up to date, you should quarantine for five days and then wear a well-fitting mask for an additional five days. Get tested if you develop symptoms and eliminate travel for 10 days from exposure.

• What action should I take if I am exposed to someone with COVID and am up-to date on my vaccines? Wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days, but quarantine is not required unless you develop symptoms. Limit travel for 10 days.

• What action should I take if I am exposed to someone with COVID and have received a confirmed COVID infection within the last 90 days? Regardless of vaccine status, you should wear a wellfitting mask for 10 days but do not have to quarantine unless you develop symptoms. No work restriction, but you should limit travel for 10 days from the date of exposure.

• What action should I take if I test positive for COVID (PCR or Rapid)? You should isolate for five days and then mask for five days regardless of your vaccine status per the latest CDC guidelines. It is OK to return to work after five days if you are not running a fever and symptoms are improving. Do not travel for 10 days after first symptoms or receipt of a positive COVID test.

You may wonder, “what is the difference between quarantine and isolation?” Per the CDC, quarantine is used when you stay home after exposure to COVID. Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others. Isolation is recommended if you have COVID-19 regardless of whether you have symptoms or not, as isolation separates people infected with the virus from others, even in their homes.

Symptoms being experienced by the current variants of COVID-19 include:

• Fever

• Chills

• Cough

• Shortness of break or difficulty breathing

• Headache

• New loss of smell

• Congestion and/or runny nose

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea Signs that you should seek emergency care include:

• Trouble breathing

• Persistent pain in your chest

• New confusion

• Inability to wake or stay awake

• Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nails – depending on skin tone

As time has marched forward, you may feel like we are now back living a more normal life. Even so, there are still many questions. What is the current state of the pandemic? Should we be worried, and what does the future hold?

Looking at the current numbers of positive cases, we are seeing extremely high infection levels with the new variants. Currently, the most prevalent variant in the U.S. is BA.5, an omicron variant. Fortunately for most people, the severity of the infection ranges somewhere between a mild cold to a really bad cold (with no need for hospitalization). With that said, we still see 300-400 deaths daily. If these rates continue, the projection for the number of deaths for an entire year would be well over what we consider an extremely dangerous year for the flu. Thus, these individuals with immune deficiencies or other risk factors remain vulnerable to infection with SAR- CoV-2.

We continue to see repeated waves of new variants arriving, with each of these variants possessing sufficient mutational changes to allow the variant to survive and have an infection advantage. This survival and infection advantage allows these new variants to easily reinfect individuals who are vaccinated and/or that have been previously infected. This pattern will likely continue with the possibility of two to three infections per person a year. There is no reason to suspect that we won’t see this pattern continue for the foreseeable future.

Does this mean we should stop doing what we are doing? Absolutely not. What it means is that we should acknowledge that this infectious respiratory virus remains a continued threat to all of us. This will be especially true as we head into the cooler months of the fall and winter. This is not the time to forget the devastating consequences of the current pandemic, which has resulted in more than one million deaths in this country alone.

While most pathogens, once established in a population, show a trend toward great transmissibility and lower fatality rates, which is likely the ultimate long-term future for humanity and SARS-CoV-2, there are always exceptions to the rule. Thus, we should not underestimate this coronavirus and other viruses as well. This has been recently evidenced by the disturbing spread of monkeypox, parechovirus, heartland virus and polio. We urge you to join us in being vigilant in taking the necessary steps to limit future illness and loss of life during this pandemic.

For more information on COVID-19 including locations to receive a vaccine, visit www.lsuhs.edu/covid

Andrew Yurochko, Ph.D., is professor and vice chairman of Microbiology & Immunology; Carroll Feist chair in viral oncology; director, Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats, LSU Health Shreveport. John Vanchiere, MD, Ph.D. is a professor of Medicine, Pediatrics & Infectious Disease; director of Community Testing & Vaccinations: principal investigator of Pfizer Vaccine Trial in N. La.; and director of Clinical Research, LSU Health Shreveport.


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