sorting the new variant.

Our society has seemingly developed a sort of “COVID information fatigue,” with people prone to just tune out the news and warnings as things change with the – very much ongoing – pandemic situation.

I totally get it; I’m worn out with it too. We all are.

Unfortunately,  just checking out of the news is not an option – or at least not a safe one.

As I’m sure you have all heard by now, the latest omicron variant, BA.5, is the one that is most common in the US and it is spreading like wildfire elsewhere as well.

It is the most contagious variant thus far – with a much greater potential for reinfection (within a few weeks at times) – and may have a typical COVID presentation – or it may present with symptoms similar to viral meningitis: headache, stiff neck, fever, numbness and tingling of limbs that is one-sided, and severe body pain. GI symptoms may also be present. As the article below states, patients with these viral meningitis like symptoms who have BA.5 may actually have very few respiratory symptoms:

(Even as I was collecting information for this post, I was reading about the other unusual symptoms related to this strain and came across back pain presenting as a symptom in a way that hasn’t been seen with others. Well, as I am STILL fighting headaches, constant runny nose, body pain, and fatigue – and, in the past few days, pain in my spine bad enough that I sat with the heating pad on it for a few hours last night (which I never do because prednisone hot flashes are no joke), I retested – and am negative at this point thankfully. Still, there is also evidence that it may take longer to give a positive result with this variant and there is always the potential for false negatives – so I am watching this closely and will probably go for an in-office check if it doesn’t improve soon.)

I found an article from The Atlantic to be very helpful in sorting some of the information about BA.5 and would encourage everyone to take a look:

This article reports that experts expect 10 – 15% of the population to be infected with BA.5 over the next few months, and, while it is more stealth when it comes to immune evasion, vaccination and being fully boosted DO still help prevent hospitalization and reduce the risk of death.

I have noticed – just antidotally – on Med Twitter that many physicians who are actually treating patients with this new rise in cases are expressing concern again at just how ill it is making those who experience complications. I’ve seen several who are very worried about where this wave could lead.

So, of course, in addition to being vaccinated, take all of the same precautions we have been advised to for each strain – social distance, avoid large indoor gatherings, mask where appropriate.

(I would note as well that this variant has also been reported to be much more transmissible outdoors than previous ones – so be aware of that as you are making plans.)

One potential concern always is that there is a risk of long COVID with each reinfection. One article I read stated that it may actually be as high as 20% with each illness – even if the symptoms were mild – which is terribly concerning.

Another article – listed below – also mentions that 18 to 65 year olds who have experienced COVID are at twice the risk for pulmonary embolism. This increased risk – and the elevated risk of blood clots overall – has serious implications for this age group.

Overall, extra caution is definitely the order of the day as we face this latest mutation.

In my area, we are currently hosting the World Games – a wonderful opportunity, but one that will likely come with a surge in cases unfortunately.

Also, here is a link to Mayo Clinic’s COVID map where it is possible to look at each state and then county within it for information that is current up to the past seven days.

Finally, I do want to mention the link between severe COVID and Vitamin D deficiency (as so many of us – especially with autoimmune disease who cannot be in the sun – are prone to deficiency if it isn’t monitored).

The Israeli study cited states, “Patients with a vitamin D deficiency, were 14 times more likely to have a severe or critical case of COVID-19. What’s more, the mortality rate for those with insufficient vitamin D levels was 25.6%, compared with 2.3% among those with adequate levels.” I have seen this repeated in several places and feel strongly that the link is significant enough to encourage everyone to make sure that they are getting adequate Vitamin D and are not deficient.

It can be checked by a simple blood test in your PCP’s office – and is something that is essential for a multitude of health reasons, in addition to seeming to be an important part of COVID immunity.

Stay informed, y’all, and be safe as you are out and about. If you are exposed or suspect you may have COVID, please do test. It’s important to know for yourself and those around you – and also to know so you can check with your healthcare provider if you have risk factors for severe COVID as there are medications that may be indicated for you.

street art in Vancouver. ❤

Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Grace and Blessings.

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