"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Wait, how do I protect myself and others from COVID again?

September 18, 2023 – Americans can have different opinions on sensitive issues, but they appear to agree on not less than one thing: the need COVID-19 was really behind us once and for all.

Yet 4 months after the CDC announced that the COVID health emergency was officially over, hospitalizations are up nearly 9% and deaths are up nearly 5% in comparison with the previous week, in line with recent CDC data.

Like it or not, the recent spike in COVID numbers could mean a return to testing, isolation and masks. So what are the recommendations again? The CDC guidelines on COVID not much has modified: If your test is positive, isolate yourself from everyone else for five days and after that, depending on whether symptoms improve or you continue to have a fever, it’s possible you’ll have to proceed isolating.

But greater than three years after the pandemic began and the general public emergency ended, are these guidelines still essentially the most effective and sensible? WebMD reached out to an emergency room doctor, a primary care physician, and an infectious disease expert for a refresher.

Q: What do you have to do in the event you are sick and think you’ll have COVID? Should you continue to isolate yourself until you get the test results?

A: Leana Wen, MD, emergency medicine physician and professor of health policy at George Washington University in Washington, DC: Everyone must have a supply of rapid antigen tests readily available to take home so that they can get tested as soon as symptoms appear. This is very vital in the event you live with people who find themselves more prone to severe illness, during which case you need to isolate yourself from those people so long as you have got symptoms, whatever the test result.

A: Dana Hawkinson, MD, infectious disease physician and medical director of infection prevention and control, University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, KS: It's at all times best to have a plan in case you develop symptoms and/or are diagnosed with COVID-19. It's still very vital to get tested early if you have got symptoms. Look totally free testing sites which may be offered by state or county agencies, ask your doctor or local hospital in the event that they do testing, or do a test at home. However, with a test at home, it’s possible you’ll have to take the test on multiple days, 24 to 48 hours apart. And yes, if you have got symptoms, try to remain home, isolate, and wear a mask when around others.

Q: How long do you have to isolate in the event you receive a positive test result or diagnosis? Should you stay home and never work and isolate yourself from your loved ones?

A: Who: There is a few misconception in regards to the CDC's guidelines. The agency recommends that folks with mild symptoms isolate themselves until after day 5, with “day zero” being the day of their positive test. That person should steer clear of others in the identical household and sleep and eat in a separate room if possible.

But after day 5, things get somewhat more complicated. The CDC guidelines technically say people should proceed to remain isolated, but they could be in the identical room in the event that they wear a mask. This suggestion was made more in order that people who find themselves essential employees can return to work or use public transportation in the event that they have to go to work. The misconception comes from some people believing that after day 5, they’ll return to eating with their elderly grandparents.

Answer: Hawkinson: The best practice is to remain home every time you might be sick. You can end your isolation when 5 days have passed since symptoms began, you have got been fever-free for twenty-four hours, and your symptoms improve if you have got or have had mild illness. Wear a mask and check out to avoid others if possible until day 10. For moderate illness, equivalent to shortness of breath or difficulty respiratory, isolation is really useful until 10 days after symptom onset.

Q: What do you have to do in case your test result stays positive otherwise you experience symptoms for an prolonged time frame? How do you have to proceed with every day activities equivalent to going to the office or place of worship, taking the children to practice, etc.?

A: Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, MPH, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a family physician in Long Island, NY: Anyone who has been infected with COVID-19 can develop Long COVID. This is taken into account a possibility when someone doesn’t return to their normal state of health after acute COVID-19 illness. Long COVID conditions can even include the event of latest or returning symptoms after the symptoms of acute COVID-19 illness have subsided, including brain fog, muscle fatigue, shortness of breath, and chronic lack of taste and smell. Experts are still working to grasp more about who experiences Long COVID and what the long-term effects are.

Answer: Hawkinson: Symptoms can last for weeks. The vital thing is to find out whether symptoms are improving since once they were at their worst. The CDC only mentions testing by saying you could consider an antigen test in the event you plan to take off your mask before 10 days of symptom onset. In this case, you will have two negative antigen tests not less than 48 hours apart.

Q: What in the event you're back to normal but don't know tips on how to protect your kids or other relations? Should you supervise your kids, stay home from work for weeks, etc.?

A: Iroku Malize: With COVID-19 still raging, managing family, work and social obligations could be stressful. If you change into ailing, your primary care doctor can provide help to create a health plan that works best for you and your relations.

Answer: Hawkinson: We know that infection rates could be quite high amongst household contacts. The neatest thing to do is to proceed to observe others in your personal or family circle who can have been exposed for symptoms. If you’re feeling exposure has occurred, it’s endorsed that you simply mask up and monitor for symptoms for the subsequent 10 days. Testing is really useful 5 full days after exposure if no symptoms have occurred.

Q: How useful are home COVID tests at the moment?

A: Iroku Malize: At-home COVID-19 self-tests remain useful and effective. I tell my patients that testing could be helpful even when you have got no symptoms or have recently been exposed to COVID-19, equivalent to before an event or visiting someone to be sure you don't by accident infect others.

The most significant thing you possibly can do to guard yourself, your family members, and your community is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Every ounce of prevention helps construct a community of immunity.

Visit this CDC COVID data tracker Visit the web site for the most recent information on COVID, including hospitalization and death rates, in addition to information to assist keep you and your family members protected.