For the media

COVID is spreading again: Here’s what to do

By The Health News Team | December 6, 2023
Sick woman taking her temperature

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer tracks case numbers of COVID-19, there are signs it is still spreading and will likely continue to spread throughout the winter months. “COVID is still the primary cause of new respiratory virus hospitalizations and death,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC, recently said.

According to the CDC, test positivity, emergency department visits and hospitalizations due to COVID are all increasing. Additionally, the presence of COVID in wastewater, or sewage, is rising, with the viral activity highest in the Midwest. Nationally, the wastewater viral activity for COVID is rated “high,” the agency reports.

“Yes, we’re seeing more COVID cases,” says Dr. Kaveh Bahmanpour, a board-certified family medicine and geriatric medicine doctor with Sharp Community Medical Group. “But I don’t think it's going to be as severe as in prior years. The COVID strains that we have right now are highly contagious but not causing severe infection like we’ve seen in the past.”

However, Dr. Bahmanpour cautions that we should not always look to case numbers to determine the level of COVID in the community. There could be more cases in our community than what will be reported, he says.

“Fewer people are getting tested compared to what we saw during the height of the pandemic,” Dr. Bahmanpour says. “Or they are testing at home, which does not get reported.”

Know the signs of COVID

While most people with COVID have mild to moderate symptoms that can be treated at home, COVID can cause serious symptoms, leading to hospitalization or death.

Common symptoms of COVID include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Additionally, long-term symptoms of COVID, known as long COVID-19, can include a range of continued health problems. These include fatigue, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, headache, digestive symptoms and trouble concentrating that can last from weeks to years.

Prevent the spread of COVID

To prevent illness and the spread of COVID, Dr. Bahmanpour recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get an updated COVID vaccine. The updated vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration reports, were formulated “to more closely target currently circulating variants and to provide better protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.”

The updated COVID shots will be free for most recipients through the end of December 2024, as private and public insurers, community health centers, or the Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 Vaccines will cover the cost. In San Diego, COVID vaccine information can be found on the county’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 website.

Along with receiving the updated vaccine, additional ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Improving ventilation in stuffy, indoor locations

  • Avoiding contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19

  • Practicing good hand hygiene by regularly washing hands with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  • Wearing a face mask in crowded indoor locations, such as when traveling

  • Following the recommendations for what to do if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, which include masking, testing and monitoring your symptoms

  • Following recommendations for isolation if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19

Talk with your doctor about your risk of severe COVID and the updated COVID vaccine. If you are ill and may have COVID or have a confirmed case of COVID and are experiencing trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion or trouble staying awake, go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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