Coronavirus cases are slowly rising in Illinois and across the United States, and with that, residents are asking many questions about the disease.
Scientists and officials have anticipated an increase in cases due to new variants, which have shown some resistance to certain treatments, and due to colder weather pushing more people to spend time indoors.
Either way, there are frequently asked questions about COVID, and we’re here to provide answers from experts and scientists.
What are the most common symptoms of COVID?
According to a recent study by researchers in the UK, the symptoms of COVID experienced by individuals may vary depending on whether a person is fully vaccinated against the virus or has not received any vaccine dose.
According to the researchers, the most common symptoms, in order of appearance, in fully vaccinated people included a sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, persistent cough and headache.
Headache was the most common symptom in unvaccinated people, followed by sore throat, runny nose, fever and persistent cough.
According to the CDC, fever or chills are common symptoms, as are shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, nausea, and diarrhea.
With colder months ahead, Chicago public health officials are warning of an upcoming increase in RSV, COVID-19 and influenza cases, NBC 5’s Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
What variants circulate in the United States?
While nearly all COVID-19 cases in the United States are currently caused by an omicron subvariant, the number of subvariants has exploded in recent weeks.
The BA.5 variant, which caused the majority of COVID cases in the United States throughout the summer, is now responsible for 49.6% as its hold on the total number of cases has shrunk.
Two descendants of BA.5, called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, are respectively responsible for 14% and 13.1% of cases.
Both of these variants, along with the BA.4.6 variant, may be able to evade some monoclonal antibody treatments, but new bivalent COVID vaccines are still effective in preventing serious illness or hospitalizations, preliminary research shows.
BF.7, another descendant of BA.5, is responsible for about 7.5% of cases.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady provided an update on COVID-19 ahead of Halloween and the holiday season. reports Sandra Torres.
What treatments are available for COVID?
While many monoclonal antibody treatments, including Evusheld and bebtelovimab, show reduced efficacy against newer variants of COVID, other drugs are still being prescribed by doctors.
The Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid remains effective against new strains of omicron, according to the CDC, and Gilead’s intravenous remdesivir is still prescribed, as is Merck’s molnupiravir.
Unfortunately for immunocompromised people, these treatments all have drawbacks. According to NBC News, Paxlovid can interact dangerously with drugs used by organ transplant recipients, and molnupiravir may be less effective in immunocompromised patients.
Remdesivir requires intravenous infusions to work, and treatments are needed for three consecutive days, doctors say.
Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill has been used in several recent high-profile cases, including that of President Biden. As doctors continue to prescribe the drug, new questions are emerging about its side effects, particularly the so-called “Paxlovid mouth”.
Is there a mask mandate in Illinois?
As COVID cases continue to slowly rise in Illinois, there is growing concern about whether a mask mandate will be reimposed, but at present Governor JB Pritzker and the Department of Public Health in Illinois said no such executive order was forthcoming.
Even still, there are some counties where IDPH and the CDC recommend at least wearing masks due to rising case numbers.
As of Oct. 31, that list of counties includes Stephenson, Ogle, Pike, Ford and Vermillion counties, according to the CDC.
Virtually the entire Chicago area remains at a “low level” of COVID transmission, according to the CDC.
On Friday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker updated an executive order regarding COVID masking guidelines.
What vaccines are available and are there any side effects?
Currently, four COVID vaccines are approved for emergency use by the FDA, the two main ones being the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines.
Both of these vaccines also have “bivalent” booster shots that have been licensed, with the treatment specifically targeting omicron-based variants of the disease.
The most common side effects of vaccines include pain at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, and muscle aches. Most side effects are mild and occur within 1-2 days of injection.
The Janssen COVID vaccine is also available for people ages 18 and older, but only in cases where other licensed vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate, according to the FDA.
A single dose of the vaccine is given to start the sequence, as well as a booster dose two months later.
The most common side effects are pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea, and most occur within 1-2 days of injection.
A fourth vaccine, produced by Novavax, is also licensed for people aged 12 and over, requiring two injections and then a booster dose six months later.
The Novavax booster is authorized for patients, but only in cases where other bivalent booster vaccines are not available or clinically appropriate.
Side effects are similar to those of other vaccines, including pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and fever.