May 23, 2022 - COVID

Tips to detect "stealth Omicron," COVID's latest wave

Change in reported COVID-19 cases per 100k people in the last two weeks
Data: New York Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

👋 Alissa here. While I'd much rather offer you a happy Axios retreat recap or a tasty food review, today I'm here with a plea — please take COVID-19's Omicron subvariants seriously.

Driving the news: My D.C. retreat experience was over before it began, after daily on-site testing provided by Axios detected I had the virus shortly after arriving.

  • I quarantined in a hotel room and eventually drove a rental car back to Ohio. Sigh.

Of note: I've had three Pfizer vaccines, most recently in November.

My take: They don't call it "stealth Omicron" for nothing. It's highly contagious and sneaky, first resembling seasonal allergies or a mild cold.

Pro tips:

  • Serial testing: Test daily if you're symptomatic. At-home rapid tests often miss early Omicron infections. After two negative tests, I just naively thought my allergies were acting up.
  • Weird symptoms: Former tell-tale signs like a loss of taste and smell aren't common with Omicron. But it can cause skin rashes, itchy eyes and ear issues.
  • Be informed: My husband and I suspect he brought it home from a health care job but was misdiagnosed with an ear infection and eczema flare-up. After a negative rapid test, we let our guard down.

State of play: We're all fatigued, but the pandemic isn't over.

The bottom line: Since I'm healthy and vaccinated, my infection feels like a bad cold. But I'm grateful I was able to take precautions to prevent spreading the virus to more vulnerable people.


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