CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As coronavirus cases continue to surge across New York and the country, those with symptoms may be wondering if they’re coming down with COVID, the flu, or the common cold.
Wednesday marked a record-breaking day for new COVID infections in Albany County. The county reported 471 new cases overnight, shattering the previous high of 351 that was set back in January. In part, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said the following on the influx:
“While concerning, it’s still unclear what kind of impact this will have on our hospitals and for now, COVID hospitalizations seem relatively stable, though there is a lag in time after a spike in infections.”Albany County Executive Dan McCoy
With the continued rise in cases locally and across the country, if you do have symptoms, you may be what is causing those symptoms.
“Mild stuff like, just some head cold stuff, all the way over to the deep muscle aches and pains and high fever of the flu, it can be any of the three [COVID, common cold, or flu],” said Dr. Alan Sanders, the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Albany Medical Center.
However, there are still some notable differences between the three. The common cold is typically mild and resolves quickly, while the flu has a rapid onset of symptoms and high fevers. But, with the now dominant omicron variant seemingly causing milder illness, particularly amongst the vaccinated, medical experts are urging anyone who is sick to get tested.
“All of those symptoms can actually be COVID. Especially if you’ve been vaccinated, people that are vaccinated have the milder symptoms, those are the people that don’t realize they have COVID,” said Dr. Christopher Fatone.
Fatone, who is a family practice physician for St. Peter’s Health Partners, says when a patient comes in with symptoms, they test for COVID, the flu, and in some cases, strep throat, depending on the symptoms.
A key COVID symptom also seems to be less common in those infected with omicron, the loss of taste and smell, “We’re not seeing that as much with the omicron, especially in those that are vaccinated,” Sanders explained.
But, as cases continue to surge with the highly contagious new variant, the CDC recently put out new guidance shortening the isolation period for asymptomatic individuals, who can now end their isolation after five days, as long as they continue to wear a mask.
“This thing is ripping through communities and the incubation period seems a little bit shorter. So it has a really high quick upswing, and we think, based upon symptomatology, a pretty quick downside,” said Sanders.
Sanders also said there are encouraging trends in other parts of the world that experienced omicron outbreaks before the United States, including in South Africa, where the peak has seemingly passed.
Experts are also urging those with symptoms to wait until after at least one day of the onset of symptoms. They’re also telling patients to get a PCR test even if a rapid test comes back negative.