US COVID cases are rising again from the high plateau they have sat on for most of the year. Transmission of the virus is “substantial” or “high” in nearly 75% of US countiesaccording to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When COVID cases don’t reach the low-level valleys after mountain peaks, it’s hard to tell when a new wave is starting. But as cases of the once globally dominant BA.5 dwindle, new variants like the BQ family are gaining traction in the US and elsewhere.
That means a next wave of cases, experts say, or a sustained high wall of cases, potentially, if the frequent waves of Omicron variants overlap each other.
What symptoms should I pay attention to? The short answer: not necessarily the same symptoms that indicated COVID at the start of the pandemic.
Losing the ability to smell is no longer common among COVID patients, according to a recently published study Zoe Health Study, by scientists at Harvard and Stanford universitiesas well as schools in the UK.
The researchers examined data submitted by tens of thousands of participants who recorded their symptoms for research purposes through an app. Common symptoms among those who have been infected with the Omicron variant, currently responsible for the vast majority of cases worldwide, who have received at least one dose of the vaccine include sneezing, sore throat, nasal congestion, persistent cough, Y headache, they found.
“If you have been vaccinated and start sneezing a lot without an explanation, you should get tested for COVID, especially if you live or work with people who are at higher risk for the disease,” the authors wrote.
Those on Omicron were much less likely to experience brain fog, eye pain, fever and headache than those on Delta, according to the researchers. Additionally, those with Omicron who were vaccinated had a lower risk of hospitalization and tended to be sick for a shorter time, compared to those vaccinated who experienced earlier variants.
While COVID patients who required hospitalization during the Delta wave in late 2021 tended to have pneumonia-like symptoms, COVID patients during the Omicron era more often have common cold-like symptoms, according to a june article in Infectious disease reports. the four commonly circulating human coronaviruses apart from COVID it usually presents as common colds.
The change probably happened because the Delta variant tended to thrive in the lower respiratory system of those infected, while the Omicron variant, especially the newer strains, tend to thrive in the upper respiratory system. However, that is subject to change as the virus evolves.
It’s impossible to say whether Omicron is less serious than Delta, experts say, because the public has continued to build up its immunity. When people get infected or vaccinated, their immune systems become stronger, and although antibody immunity lasts only a few months, T cell immunitywhich can make infections milder, last much longer.
COVID may be more and more like seasonal flu, experts say, with milder symptoms and cases that are more common during the winter. But it is too early to tell, they warn, adding that the virus could change course at any time.
At this point in the pandemic, it can be difficult to distinguish COVID from the flu or other respiratory viruses. If you are sick, experts recommend that you get tested; Of course, there are home tests available for COVID, doctors’ offices have rapid tests for the flu, and some lab companies offer home tests for both. People who test positive for either can contact their health care provider to prescribe an antiviral such as Paxlovid for COVID or Tamiflu for the flu.
Sign up for the characteristics of fortune email list so you don’t miss out on our biggest features, exclusive interviews and investigations.