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Latest on COVID-19 in SWLA and highly transmittable new variant

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – A recent jump in Covid cases in Louisiana has been blamed on the new fast-infectious Omicron strain. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has changed their way of tracking cases in the state.

“The current main strain is Ba.5 which is a new sub-variant of Omicron that we really started seeing a lot of in early June and that’s really responsible for this current situation that we’re seeing,” said Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh.

Dr Cavanaugh says the symptoms of this new strain are very similar to those of the earlier Omicron variants.

“Lots of upper respiratory symptoms, stuffy nose, cough, body aches, fever – the same symptoms we’ve been talking about with Covid for a long time. But the good news is that just like the original Omicron we saw over the winter, it doesn’t seem to cause severe disease like some of our previous COVID strains,” said Dr. Cavanaugh.

Dr. Cavanaugh said anyone with these symptoms who has been exposed to the virus should be tested, but he said it’s best to wait a few days before testing.

“You don’t necessarily want to test immediately after a close contact because you might not be positive yet. It’s okay to test immediately but then you want to test again in 3-5 days,” he said.

He adds that at-home tests are readily available these days, and you can get them over-the-counter in many places.

If you test positive – current isolation guidelines are 5 days.

“If on day 6 you feel generally better, your symptoms improve, you no longer have a fever, then you are allowed to resume normal activities on day 6, but we recommend that you wear a mask from day 6-day 10. Because there’s a small chance you could still be contagious in that window,” says Dr. Kavanaugh.

Quarantine guidelines are also five days if you are exposed to the virus. But Dr. Cavanaugh reminds people that the virus is still contagious if you come into contact with a family member. He recommends that people begin their five-day quarantine at the last point of contact with an infected person.

Dr. Cavanaugh said they’re not asking people who test positive at home to report it to the state, so the Covid Dashboard is likely a proxy, as they’ve created other ways to track COVID in the community.

“I think what you’re seeing is kind of a movement of Covid data into how we monitor disease for many other diseases, including flu, and move towards modeling and estimating case load based on numerous indicators,” Dr Kavanaugh said.

Dr. Cavanaugh said vaccines still appear to be very effective in preventing severe illness with this new strain. He advises everyone to stay up-to-date on their vaccines and boosters, especially amid this rapidly spreading variant.

He added that in addition to vaccinations, they now have more widespread therapeutics, which could be very effective for high-risk patients infected with Covid. If you are a high-risk patient who has contracted Covid, you may want to talk to your doctor about your eligibility for therapeutics.

Copyright 2022 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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