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Here’s what to do after being exposed to omicron

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Here’s what to do after being exposed to omicron

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Dr. David Hamer, professor of global health and medicine, explains why rapid tests are good at telling when someone is infectious.

Corona rapid tests with negative results in Dortmund, western Germany. INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

In the wake of the omicron wave, the steps to take after being exposed to COVID-19 seem increasingly complicated. If someone is exposed, do they test immediately? Or do they test after 5 days? Do they have to self isolate for 5 days? Or 7? Or even 10?

Below is a timeline of what to do after being exposed to omicron and what to do at each stage with the help of Dr. David Hamer, Professor of Global Health and Medicine at the Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine.

Immediately after exposure:

First, don’t get tested right away.

“With omicron there is at least a suggestion that you become infected and symptomatic within two or three days.” Hamer said. “If you’ve had no symptoms and no other exposures, testing the same day of an exposure is a waste of time.”

3 to 5 days after exposure:

Have it tested.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s most recent guidelines, if someone has symptoms of COVID-19, they should get tested. Therefore, for 3-5 days after exposure, that person should watch for signs of symptoms.

However, if they still have no symptoms five days after exposure, they should still seek testing to check if they are infected and asymptomatic.

What symptoms to look for in those 3-5 days:

Symptoms associated with omicron are slightly different from previous variants, aligning more with the flu or cold according to Hamer. A person with omicron can expect to experience symptoms such as those listed below:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Tired
  • To sneeze
  • Sore throat

That’s according to the Zoe COVID-19 Symptom Study.

What type of test to take and why:

At Governor Baker’s Jan. 11 press conference regarding testing and exposure, he stressed that rapid tests are a reliable way to get results.

This is because of what is called viral load.

Hamer explained viral load as “the concentration of virus in certain bodily fluids”.

Rapid tests are a solid option because they’re quick, cheap, easy to find and use, and can usually tell someone that – not only are they positive – but also contagious.

A PCR test will show a positive result if someone has “very small particles” of virus in their system, according to Hamer. However, rapid tests will only give a positive result if there is a large amount of virus concentrated in the body, enough to make that individual clearly infected and infectious.

When a person is initially infected with COVID-19, Hamer said, they are likely to be contagious because there is a large amount of virus in the body. However, as that infected person begins to recover, their viral load drops rapidly.

“SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that grows rapidly inside the body, so by the time a baseline PCR test becomes positive, the virus is indeed growing exponentially,” reads a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “At this point, it is likely to take hours, not days, before the virus grows by orders of magnitude, reaching the detection thresholds of currently available rapid and inexpensive point-of-care tests.”

For a more visual interpretation, the New England Journal of Medicine has created a chart.

“[A rapid test] tells you you’re infected, but also, it has a pretty good association or some sort of correlation with infectiousness,” Hamer said.

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for containment.

After positive test:

Current CDC guidelines recommend self-isolation for five days. However, Hamer has thoughts.

“The CDC recommends five days. It’s not based on a lot of evidence… on day five, about half or less of people are no longer contagious, and on day seven the level of risk is even better and lower.

Hamer recommends sticking to official isolation guidelines, but advises continuing to wear a properly fitted mask for a few days past the five-day mark.

Why it is not suggested to take a PCR test to resume normal activity:

“PCR is much more sensitive, so it can detect very small RNA particles from the virus.” he said: “Some people will have virus fragments that will spread for weeks.”

Therefore, getting a quick or even at-home test to provide to workplaces, schools, and other facilities is a much better method. This is also why most organizations that conduct mandatory testing in their community, such as universities, will exempt those who have already been infected from mandatory testing for 90 days.



Here’s what to do after being exposed to omicron

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