COVID-19: what you need to know to protect yourself

protect yourself COVID-19

You probably know someone who has had COVID-19, and with the increase in cases it is likely that doubts about the disease itself, the symptoms and the variants that have become important in this fourth wave of the pandemic are growing, so we invite you to read on and find out what you need to know today.

Omicron is the name given to a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The emergence of the Omicron variant in late 2021 has put local, state and national healthcare systems to the test.

What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?

Symptoms of infection with the original coronavirus, the Delta variant and Omicron are similar: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, and muscle pain. Medical professionals and scientists are working to discern the differences between the two strains of the virus.

Many unknowns remain. "While there is still much we don't know about Omicron, vaccines and boosters are effective in preventing serious illness and limiting transmission of the virus," said Scott Morrow, M.D., San Mateo County health officer.

Through a statement, the health expert detailed that the best way to track and treat cases of COVID-19, whether Delta or Omicron variants, is through testing. "Testing is absolutely essential for all of us."

To help prevent the spread, health officials continue to urge the use of the COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters, and require the use of masks in enclosed public places, regardless of vaccination status.

I have symptoms, what do I do now?

The first step is to stay home from work and school. The next step is to get tested.

You should be tested for COVID-19 immediately if you feel any symptoms, regardless of your vaccination status. Symptoms of illness may feel like the common cold, seasonal allergies or flu.

Tests can tell you if you are currently infected with COVID-19.

I came into close contact with someone who now has COVID-19. What should I do?

Get tested, even if you are fully vaccinated.

The California Department of Public Health recommends that anyone who comes into contact with someone who has, or is suspected of having COVID-19 should be tested on day 5 after exposure.

If you are fully vaccinated and boosted, or fully vaccinated but not yet eligible for a booster, you do not need to quarantine yourself - stay home and away from other people for at least five days - but you should isolate yourself if you develop symptoms or receive a positive test result.

Persons who are unvaccinated or vaccinated and are eligible for a booster but have not received it should stay home for at least 5 days after their last contact with a person who has COVID-19 and be tested on day 5.

  • It should be noted that you should quarantine yourself if you are in one of the following groups:
  • Has completed the primary series of a recommended vaccine and is eligible for a booster, but has not received it
  • Received Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine - completing the primary series - more than 2 months ago and has not received a recommended booster shot
  • Not vaccinated or has not completed a series of primary vaccines

What are the two different tests? Does it matter which test I take?

Two types of tests are commonly available:

  • Rapid antigen tests
  • PCR tests

Why use antigen testing?

An antigen test directly detects COVID-19 virus protein fragments. It is easy to perform almost anywhere with a noninvasive nasal swab, provides results quickly, and is good for confirming suspected COVID infections in people who are already ill.

It should be noted that this type of test is most effective for people currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. However, they are more likely to have a "false negative" result, so a follow-up PCR test may be needed in people who have symptoms of COVID-19.

You should use an antigen test when:

  • You should quickly determine if someone who appears ill has COVID-19.
  • You are in an area where access to PCR testing is limited.
  • If there is limited CRP testing capacity and you are in a high-risk setting where regular and frequent testing is recommended - nursing homes, other group care facilities, etc. - then you should be aware that you are in a high-risk setting.

PCR Test: What is it?

PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction. The PCR test amplifies and then detects the presence of COVID-19 virus genetic material.

PCR is the preferred test for diagnosing COVID infections in sick people and in people who do not experience any symptoms of COVID.

It should be noted that this type of test must be processed in a laboratory, which may mean waiting up to 72 hours or more between performing the test and obtaining the result.

PCR tests are available at county-operated sites, pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and others, as well as testing providers such as Curative and Virus Geeks.

You can learn more about testing and contact tracing of the San Mateo County Health Department.

Do not go to an emergency department or urgent care to get tested; hospital emergency departments and other urgent care facilities are not testing centers. 

Are home test results reported to local public health officials?

No. Home antigen test results are generally not reported to public health agencies, nor are they included in official case counts. This means that the statistics of positive tests and cases are significantly underestimated.

I was tested - because of symptoms or close contact - but I won't receive the results for 24-72 hours. What should I do while I wait?

He should self-isolate, stay home from work and school, while waiting for the results.

What is the latest in facial covers/masks?

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the County of San Mateo require that mouth covers be worn in all enclosed public places, regardless of vaccination status.

For additional information on the types of masks, the most effective ones and ensuring a good fit, you can consult the DDPH site in the special section, giving click here.

You may be interested in: More tests in San Mateo in the face of Omicron

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