In the pandemic's early days, Covid scared the hell out of me. The news was full of heartbreaking images of final goodbyes delivered with an IPad held by an ICU nurse.
I remember keeping six feet away from others on the sidewalk, disinfecting groceries and preparing personal Covid plans, which included a discussion about whether to consent to a ventilator, if confronted with that dark choice.
It's hard to fathom that this was little more than two years ago. Today, as the virus continues to infect more of us, we have reasons to be less worried. But not worry free.
Based on estimates, most of you reading this newsletter have already had Covid – some 30% of you between December and March alone. Infections among close friends and family has become a regular occurrence.
Many have reconciled themselves to this. "It's inevitable," people have told me. "Better to get it over with."
Here are a few reasons why I'm not one of those people.
Thanks to Omicron's startling ability to mutate into new forms which evade immunity from either vaccination or prior infection, "let's get it over with" no longer applies.
Those infected with earlier variant were largely immune from getting them again. But Omicron changed everything, at first infecting those who had Delta and then spinning off subvariants that can re-infect those who caught the original strain of Omicron only a few months ago. And the fact that Omicron generally produces milder symptoms likely translates into lower production of defensive antibodies.
If Omicron continues to behave this way, those who abandon precautions run the risk of being infected several times.
As in becomes increasingly clear that Covid is with us for the foreseeable future, researchers are turning their attention to its long-term health impacts. Because there is no standard definition of Long Covid and testing has been greatly reduced, we're still guessing how widespread this is.
Researchers estimate that between 10 and 30 percent of those infected with Covid will have illness that linger, with varying severity, for anywhere from one month to more than a year. More than 200 potential symptoms have been identified, with the more common ones including fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, erratic heart rate, depression and difficulty with memory or concentration.
A large recent U.S. study found that more than half of Long Covid cases had underlying conditions, but it can affect previously healthy people of all age groups. And however small the percentage of infections which turn into long-lasting symptoms, the numbers will continue to rise through new infection and reinfection. This poses problems not only for the individuals who have it but also for employers and for the health care system.
Risk of Serious Illness Remains – Get Vaccinated
With the warm weather moving gatherings outside where there is less risk of infection, Covid hospitalizations continue to decline, as do ICU admission. But those statistics mean nothing to the 154 still in ICU with Covid – or the 14 who died in the most recent day or reporting.
Your chances of being one of them is greatly diminished if you are fully vaccinated. Technically, this term refers to those with two doses; in practical terms you are not fully vaccinated if you haven't had a booster shot. Although current vaccines don't provide much protection against getting Covid, even two doses makes you five times less likely to end up in ICU because of it, according to Toronto Public Health.
A booster dose, which prompts your body to reactivate its Covid defences, improves your odds much more than that. Otherwise, your protection will diminish each month.
It is also important to note that most experts recommend booster doses even for those who have had Covid.
Toronto is justifiably proud of its remarkably high two-dose vaccination rates, but a large number may have been lulled into complacency by Omicron's tendency to cause less severe illness. To make an appointment click here.
Although Covid does not have a brain, do not dismiss its biological imperative to outsmart us - if we allow ourselves to be fooled by it.