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COVID-19 signs are strikingly much like flu. However when you check unfavorable on an antigen check, do not assume it is influenza. This is why

You’ve got a blistering headache. Your physique aches. You’ve developed a cough. You’re sneezing. However you check unfavorable on an antigen check. Do you will have COVID-19, the illness brought on by the virus SARS-CoV-2? Or the flu? Or “flurona” — that’s, each?

It’s a worrying dilemma and an more and more widespread query. Flu season is upon us. Omicron is upon us. In case you have a COVID-19 vaccine, your immune system will kick in sooner to battle the virus. That’s if you begin feeling sick.

You isolate for a minimum of 5 full days — day zero being the primary day of signs — as a result of that’s the accountable factor to do. But you continue to have your sense of style and scent, however you realize that doesn’t imply you don’t have COVID-19.

A COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot assist scale back the danger of extreme signs, and hospitalization, research recommend. If that is what omicron looks like with a vaccine, you could be thanking your fortunate stars that you just bought your pictures.

However because the omicron variant sweeps the world over, and flu season takes maintain, how will you inform the distinction between COVID-19 and the flu? The reality is except you lastly get a optimistic COVID-19 antigen check, it’s virtually inconceivable to inform.

COVID-19 and flu signs are virtually the identical

Right here’s why it’s powerful: Each COVID-19 and flu could lead to fever, coughing, shortness of breath/problem respiration, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nostril, physique aches, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, change in or lack of style or scent.

The CDC says a loss or change in style or scent is extra widespread in COVID-19, but it surely’s not a precondition for having omicron, the extremely transmittable variant that’s blazing a path throughout faculties, workplaces and household gatherings.

One signal you may have COVID-19 somewhat than the flu: A persistent dry cough, and shortness of breath or problem respiration are two signs that would level to COVID-19, particularly when you have been uncovered to somebody who examined optimistic.

It’s a Catch 22. The flu and COVID-19 have close to equivalent signs. Regardless of all the rules serving to folks to differentiate between the 2, a optimistic fast antigen check remains to be the one surefire method of figuring out which sickness you will have.

However right here’s the rub: Checks aren’t one and finished. In case you have COVID-19 and have signs, you could nonetheless check unfavorable on antigen exams for days. What’s extra, your immune system, helped by a vaccine, may very well defeat the virus.

Repeatedly testing unfavorable with COVID-19 or flu signs

Therein lies the silver lining to feeling unwell. Early within the pandemic, our immune methods fought the coronavirus and we felt unwell. With none preexisting immunity we doubtless had a considerable amount of virus in our methods by the point we felt rotten.

Vaccines have been a sport changer. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist, says feeling sick generally is a good factor. Vaccines assist our immune system to extra shortly acknowledge and battle the virus, and that makes us really feel sick — not essentially the virus load.

Mina stated you will be symptomatic and pre-infectious, infectious, post-infectious or by no means infectious. “Signs don’t = contagious virus,” he wrote on Twitter. “That is actually a mirrored image of the truth that vaccines are doing their job!”

That’s why we really feel horrible even once we’re unfavorable. “We acknowledge the virus shortly after it lands in us, we develop signs, we type of battle it off, then it typically finally wins, and grows quick AFTER immunity/signs began,” he added.

“Thus, if you’re symptomatic and unfavorable — though it means you’re most likely not contagious at that second, be very very cautious,” Mina provides. “Quarantine even when doable and check the subsequent morning or that evening. (Generally even longer.)”

Emily Landon, government medical director for an infection prevention and management at College of Chicago Drugs, informed UChicago Information in a Q&A that antigen exams detect COVID-19 when folks have a better quantity of virus of their system.

‘A unfavorable antigen check doesn’t essentially imply you aren’t contagious.’

— Emily Landon, government medical director for an infection prevention and management at UChicago Drugs

“However a unfavorable antigen check doesn’t essentially imply you aren’t contagious. If somebody has COVID-19, however hasn’t but reached the check’s threshold of viral particles, they might nonetheless check unfavorable with an antigen check however optimistic on a PCR.”

PCR exams, which amplify the genetic material, are principally carried out at hospitals and different testing services. “They’re in a position to detect smaller portions of the virus and detect them sooner (and for extra time) than antigen exams,” Landon added.

After which there’s the elephant within the room, as outlined in a small and, to date, non-peer reviewed research published Wednesday, which in contrast fast antigen exams with these extra delicate PCR exams.

The analysis checked out 30 absolutely vaccinated employees in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco who have been examined every day final month, utilizing each nasal antigen and saliva PCR exams. A excessive, however unspecified quantity, had booster pictures.

The outcomes have been regarding, significantly as thousands and thousands of individuals depend on at-home antigen exams. “Most omicron instances have been infectious for a number of days earlier than being detectable by fast antigen exams,” the researchers concluded. 

The truth is, it took roughly three days from the primary optimistic PCR check to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 with an ordinary antigen check. In consequence, 4 contributors unfold the virus earlier than discovering they have been optimistic. 

Isolate and check with signs. However when do you exit isolation?

How do you interpret these fast exams? One pink line is unfavorable, whereas two pink strains means optimistic. A stronger second pink line doubtless means you’re at your most infectious. A lighter pink line means you’re at first or finish of your an infection.

When and the way you exit isolation has simply gotten trickier. The CDC is maintaining its position on its isolation coverage, instructing individuals who had signs and who’ve entry to a check to take one earlier than exiting isolation. Nevertheless it does not require it.

Even if you’re much less contagious after your signs have alleviated, the CDC’s critics argue that this creates one other grey space of confusion, and places the onus on the person to make choices which might be finest left as much as public-health officers.

The CDC’s explanation: “Nearly all of SARS-CoV-2 transmission happens early in the midst of sickness, usually within the 1-2 days previous to onset of signs and the 2-3 days after.” That, nonetheless, was earlier than omicron unfold like wildfire.

This stance has divided public opinion, and annoyed some epidemiologists. Many public-health advocates say it’s safer to get that unfavorable antigen check earlier than going out into the world. For his half, Mina referred to as the CDC pointers “reckless.”

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