And what you need to know about this and other viruses
– Dr Richard Maurer
Finally, I got COVID. I am at day six since symptoms started and have felt fully recovered for the past two days. On Saturday I took 800 steps per my phone. On Sunday I took 18,000. Yeah, I felt better.
How did I get it? Short answer, it doesn’t matter, the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is ubiquitous. Long answer? I travelled to see my father-in-law who had COVID while we were visiting. We did have access to a separate cottage, but we shared space later in the week. A day before we returned home, my wife Alexandra got it – so I returned home with our son and she quarantined there. Both my wife and her father were fully vaccinated last year and boosted within the prior 8 weeks. A week later, after returning home, I had symptoms. Fact is, this completes our household. Everyone has had it. And everyone is vaccinated too.
Last week, two-out-of-three people who heard I had COVID expressed concern, stating worriedly, “Oh my god.” Thank you, but that is a response I’d like to reserve for when sh#! really goes wrong. One out of three responded with a “Good for you.” I like this one, let me explain.
This week we had both Dr Fauci and acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock state that we are going to live with this virus and most people are going to get it. The pivot in their message is impressive, so what happened?
First, omicron does not much care about the vaccine. Omicron had a lot of sites of mutation compared to its predecessor, DELTA. These many mutations allowed it to create symptoms more rapidly, spread more readily, and sneak past the immune systems immune memory that was imparted by the vaccine. The new variant has less affinity toward the lungs though, which is part of the reason it is less serious and less deadly than DELTA.
What does happen with the vaccine? Those at risk of serious illness have significantly reduced severity. These data have become clear over time. Areas where over 75% of people are vaccinated have hospitals where over 90% of the hospitals COVID patients are unvaccinated. But the vaccine does not significantly prevent the person from contracting COVID.
My mother will likely get infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus – but I don’t want it to be from my doing. She lives closely with others who would be considered very high risk. But I can’t ignore the likelihood that this will happen at some point, probably soon. We have a less serious variant, a well vaccinated population for those at risk, and medications available for early treatment options. I see this as good news.
What testing did I use?
As soon as I was symptomatic, I quarantined at home.
HOME antigen tests: These are not very sensitive overall. So for me, it did not show the infection prior to symptoms – and by the time I had symptoms, my action was clear. Home antigen tests typically remain positive for 6-10 days from day one of infection, even though the research shows minimal contagiousness after day 5 if all symptoms have resolved. But this is variable from person to person – the CDC clears asymptomatic people by day five post-PCR test. Those who do have symptoms, are told they can leave quarantine at day 6, but with distance and masking while indoors. If fever or symptoms are not better, all bets are off and contagiousness is likely present.
I took a PCR test on day one of symptoms so I’d have a record in case future international travel required me to show my positive PCR test was due to a past recent infection. PCR tests can remain positive for up to 60-days following COVID resolving as they are more sensitive due to their amplification method.
To mask or not to mask?
While with my father-in-law, I masked, but after his day five, I ate with him. When my wife tested positive – I did maintain a little distance mostly because the tiny bed was not big enough – but it is the two days prior to her illness that is the main period of contagiousness with omicron, so any viral exposure was in the past. Once I was positive, my wife did not mask, nor did she ask me to mask – she already recovered from it the week prior so no need. My 26 and 19 year old living at the house that week did not mask around me, again, they had already had this virus. I do not mask outdoors but did maintain distance while walking with folks.
I will have my mask on indoors until I am past my 10 days post-symptom onset. Per the CDC, there is no reason for a follow-up negative home antigen test unless I need the confirmation
Did I spread it?
Not that I know of – but it is possible. The original variant spread at a rate of 2.8 people for every one that contracted it. Delta was twice as contagious to a rate of about 4.8 people per one that contracted it. Omicron is said to be between 3 to 5 times more contagious than delta. While I have taken precautions such as using home tests prior to any indoor interaction with others, it is statistically probably that some spread took place. I just can’t spread it to my family as they are immune…or super immune?!
Super immunity and hybrid immunity
These are the terms tossed around to describe those that have received vaccination and have recovered from COVID. The vaccine activates T-cell recognition of the spike protein as does natural immunity which further stimulates B-cell humoral immunity and mucosal immunity. No public health administrator wants to become complacent or overly confident, but their optimism is clear as we end January 2022 with numbers falling similar to those countries that led us in the omicron surge, like South Africa and France.
What did I do to promote wellness and recovery?
For the first three days, I really did not accomplish much. I SLEPT. I napped one to two times a day.
I took a bath every day, hoping it would relieve the intense muscle achiness in my hips (it did not, and neither did foam rolling, and neither did electrolytes and neither did magnesium)
Even reading was a challenge with the mild headache (which lasted 1 day). I read magazines. I watched a few movies.
I took walks – walking did not worsen or help the muscle aches and fresh air is always good - always good. I have seen several adults try to "play through" and continue hard exercise with COVID, and I have not seen it work well. Especially runners and cyclists. My recommendation - take it easy. Don't breakdown muscle with COVID. This means catabolic type exercise such as long runs or bike rides and weight lifting are to be avoided while actively recovering from COVID or any significant infection.
I doubled my vitamin D3 supplement to 4000 iu per day
I took my TWICE DAILY multiple
I took an equal parts cal / mag supplement nightly
Did I take an anti-inflammatory?
I took no Ibuprofen, Tylenol or aspirin. I believe that suffering is our path and the only way to express that we are human. OK, the former Catholic in me talking. The science guy speaking? Taking suppressive medication defeats the purpose of getting sick.
When we are sick, the inflammatory response is designed to kill infection and activate our immune system to provide a rapid and enduring response to the infectious agent. Inflammation, while uncomfortable and inconvenient for my first few nights’ sleep, was my most direct, effective and natural path to cure.
In fact, Both ibuprofen and acetaminophen can reduce the immune response to both infections and vaccinations – and while researchers claim the percentage loss is minimal following vaccination, why would we want to suppress the very immune system that we just asked to respond. Again worth remembering, and as the researchers conclude, acute inflammation is helpful. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210122154410.htm]
I therefore simply use hot and cold water, movement, and breathing exercises to provide relief. Don’t get me wrong – a had a couple nights I woke up a lot due to the gripping muscle pain, but this is not chronic illness here, and as much as I wanted to whine, nobody was there to listen…fortunately.
If you have the energy for 2 more minutes, here are four cool COVID studies I read about that support the broad reaching effect of natural immunity
1 – Kids are remarkably protected – and we now have insight as to how [https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210518/Milder-COVID-19-in-children-may-be-due-to-higher-memory-B-cells-responses-to-SARS-CoV-2.aspx] Memory B-cell immunity, referred to as humoral immunity, can cross pollinate from one virus to another. So as kids grow and develop, the complex viral and bacterial biome that is in noses, on skin and in the gut, trigger production of B cells that can clone themselves and address other viruses that are unrelated and in this case, these cross reacted immune cells were for SARS-Cov-2.
2 – Common colds can prevent COVID? We have several coronaviruses that live in our noses and at times they can cause a common cold at worst. It turns out, that developing T-cell immunity to these cousins of the SARS-Cov-2 can provide infection resistance in children and adults. [https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/233018/cells-from-common-colds-cross-protect-against/] Let’s embrace the occasional cold.
3 – While prior DELTA infection does not necessarily protect you from contracting omicron, In the lab, antibodies produced during an omicron infection protected against DELTA. This does mean that, if it plays out in the real world, omicron will take over DELTA and provide an immunity a broad-reaching immunity. [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/health/covid-omicron-antibodies-delta.html]
4 – In a Swedish study , both people who vaccinated nine months ago and people who contracted one of the early variants of SARS-Cov-2 in 2021 had enough T-cell immunity to reduce the severity of Omicron illness. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220119121348.htm]