Some people affected by COVID FLiRT still report unpleasant symptoms

As the summer travel season ramps up, the number of Covid cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County is on the rise — and some of those recently re-infected are finding their latest bout to be even worse.

There are no indications that the latest coronavirus strains are causing more severe disease either nationally or in California.

But some doctors say this recent rise in COVID challenges a long-held myth: Although new Covid infections are mild compared to a first brush with the disease, they can still occur. serious illness. Even if someone doesn’t need to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized, people sometimes describe painful symptoms.

“The theory is that every time you get Covid, it’s mild. But I think we have to keep our minds open to the possibility that some people have worse symptoms,” said UC San Francisco infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

Every time you get Covid, “it’s like playing Covid roulette,” he said.

Although the overall risk is relatively mild, it underscores the need for caution during summer travel and activities.

Because everyone’s experience with Covid is different and influenced by many factors, it’s difficult to quantify how many people are experiencing more severe symptoms now compared to previous infections. But including on social media sites, people are expressing shock at how sick they are of the latest subgenre, collectively known as FLiRT.

“I’ve had covid a few times but this is the worst for me,” wrote one Reddit. The man reported a persistent fever that was so congested that he couldn’t breathe through his nose, “terrible sinus pressure and headaches … and I can’t stand for long without feeling like I’m going to pass out.”

“Covid used to feel like a cold, but this strain [wreaking] Destruction,” the person wrote. “I hate complaints like this, but I’m shocked at how much it’s taking me out.”

Another person wrote Their “throats feel like razor blades” and they feel they are “in misery”.

“I have a cold, but the cough hurts because my throat is literally on fire!!” person wrote. “This is my 4th time with covid and I swear it’s the worst ever!!”

Others who have survived Covid for more than four years have been infected this summer.

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One fell ill and tested positive for the first time after hosting a Father’s Day gathering for 12 people. person described “The uncontrollable shivering cold is so bad I can’t feel most of my fingertips.”

The 42-year-old nurse has contracted Covid four times. said Their latest illness was “severe with fever, cough, head pressure and pain. It was affecting my throat and ability to swallow.”

Others have claimed that every subsequent COVID illness has Easy to recover. and a first-time victim wrote They had “very mild symptoms [that] Feels like a seasonal allergy”.

Some studies support the idea that subsequent COVID infections pose additional risks. A 2022 Report In the journal Nature Medicine, focusing on veterans, “compared with non-infected individuals [people]Overall risks and burdens of recurrent infections increased with the number of infections,” increasing the risk of medical problems, hospitalizations, and death.

And the longer covid seems to spread decreases, doctors note that with every infection there is a risk of developing the syndrome. A Report Released last summer by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term Covid prevalence among US adults was 7.5% in early June 2022, but had fallen to 6% by mid-June 2023 – still a significant share of the population.

There are many possible reasons why a subsequent bout of Covid may feel worse than the first. Say someone who was vaccinated and last boosted in 2021 gets infected in 2022 and then gets infected again in 2024. A relatively long interval of not being infected, or a booster, “may lead [their body] Not much immunity. The variants have changed so much anyway, it’s like the immune system is exposed to something relatively different from the virus it’s seen before,” Chin-Hong said.

Without being up-to-date on Covid vaccines that “remind the immune system of what the current variants look like,” a recent infection could act as a relative surprise to the FLiRT subtypes that now dominate across the country.

“It’s evolved so much, and the body is like, ‘OMG, what is this I’m seeing?’ Chin-Hong said.

The logic is very similar to annual flu vaccines, which are developed each year in hopes of boosting the immune system against the dominant circulating versions of that virus.

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In the week ending Saturday, 70.5% of Covid samples across the country were FLiRT subtypes – officially known as KP.3, KP.2 and KP.1.1 – compared to 54.9% a month ago. Another closely related sub-variant, LB.1, is estimated to cover 14.9% of samples, up from 10% a month ago.

Pre-immunity from older vaccines can still do a good job of protecting many people from getting seriously ill. But without the freshness that comes with an updated vaccine, Chin-Hong said, the immune system “probably won’t be able to stop the virus in its tracks or neutralize it once the virus arrives because it looks so different, before memory immunity kicks in.”

“Meanwhile,” he added, “the virus happily infects cells while the body tries to use its current memory to generate new immune cells.”

It’s also worth noting that even in young adults who are considered up-to-date on Covid vaccines, it’s been almost a year since their last vaccination, and the effectiveness of the vaccine weakens over time.

A Report Published by the CDC in February, receiving the updated 2023-24 Covid vaccine provided a 54% increased protection against symptomatic disease compared to not getting the shot. Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection is highest in the first few months after receiving the updated shot.

Vaccines consistently provided good protection against hospitalization and death.

In LA County, COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. In the week ending June 30, an average of 229 coronavirus cases were reported per day, up from 106 a month ago. In the week ending June 29, an average of 197 coronavirus patients were in hospitals per day, up from 117 a month ago. Although COVID hospitalizations are now higher than at the same point last year, they remain below the relatively mild peak seen in the summer of 2023.

Officially reported cases are an undercount because they only factor in tests done in medical facilities and don’t account for tests done at home or people who don’t get tested. In LA County, last summer’s Covid spike peaked at 571 cases per day in late August, and hit a peak of 620 coronavirus patients per day in hospitals in early September.

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Virus levels in LA County wastewater remain relatively stable. In the week ending June 22, levels of the virus in wastewater from the 2022-23 winter season were 17% higher than in the previous week. Last summer peaked in early September, where virus levels in sewage were 38% of the previous winter’s peak.

Across California, coronavirus tests are coming back with positive results. In the week ending July 1, 10.6% of coronavirus tests across the state came up positive, up from 4.1% a month ago. Last summer’s positive test rate rose to 13.1% at the end of August.

The updated Covid vaccine is relatively rare, having become available in September. Since then, 36.7% of California seniors age 65 and older have received at least one dose. Updated vaccine, 18.5% of adults aged 50 to 64 years and 10% of younger adults aged 49 years.

For those who haven’t received an updated vaccine within the last year, “you should think about getting it, especially if you’re older and less immune,” Chin-Hong said. Hundreds of COVID deaths are being reported nationally each week, with the elderly and immunocompromised people most at risk.

Even getting the 2023-24 vaccine now will allow you to get the updated Covid vaccine, which is on track to be available this fall. The CDC does recommendation Everyone 6 months and older receives the updated 2024-25 version of the vaccine.

October is a good time to get the 2024-25 Covid vaccine, Chin-Hong said.

Healthcare workers should also be reminded of proper COVID infection control protocols, such as getting tested when you’re sick and reporting your illness to your employer, Chin-Hong said.

“It seems like everyone thinks that COVID is normal now,” Chin-Hong said. But taking sensible steps — like co-workers deciding not to come to work when sick and getting themselves tested when symptomatic — can make a difference in keeping COVID at bay for only a small number of people.

And with COVID on the rise, it’s a reminder that it’s prudent to keep a mask in your pocket if you’re near a sick person, Chin-Hong said.

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