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COVID-19 Monthly Update: August 2021

COVID-19 Monthly Update: August 2021


COVID-19 Monthly Update: August 2021

Delta Variant

There are a number of updates on the coronavirus front, as you all are no doubt noticing. The Delta variant, which was first identified in India in December, is now the predominant strain the U.S. It is more than twice as infectious as the initial COVID strains seen in early 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described Delta as more transmissible than the common cold, influenza, and the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, smallpox and Ebola—and called it as contagious as chickenpox. This means it is easier to catch and easier to spread through respiratory exchange than initial COVID strains.

Symptoms with the Delta variant may be different. There seems to be less cough and loss of smell, but more headache, fever, runny nose and sore throat in areas where >90% of cases are of the Delta variant. The average incubation period (referring to the time from exposure to symptoms), is four days instead of six days with the initial strain. The Delta variant also appears to be capable of making unvaccinated individuals sicker than previous strains.

And there’s the worry on many people’s minds—the Delta variant is more capable of giving vaccinated individuals “breakthrough” infection. We are seeing infection once again in vaccinated individuals, but it is important to remember that the majority of these cases are asymptomatic or quite mild, and still are no more likely to cause serious illness or death in those who have been vaccinated.  Those with “breakthrough” infections can carry very high viral loads and are capable of spreading the virus to others. However, the transmission period appears to be shorter, and the amount of transmission actually taking place seems to be lower than expected. It is still very rare for a vaccinated person to give another vaccinated person COVID-19. A vaccinated person is still much less likely to catch COVID than an unvaccinated one. For those who are not yet vaccinated, the situation in our country continues to get worse and worse. Virtually all of the ICU admissions and deaths in this country in the past several months have involved unvaccinated people.

What about the next variant? As the virus spreads among unvaccinated individuals, it has the opportunity to multiply rapidly and to mutate into more worrisome strains. Variants are divided into three categories: Variants of Interest, Variants of Concern, and Variants of High Consequence. Currently, there are four Variants of Concern circulating in the United States: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351, B.1.351.2, B.1.351.3), Delta (B.1.617.2, AY.1, AY.2, AY.3), and Gamma (P.1, P.1.1, P.1.2). You can learn more about them HERE https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant-info.html#Concern. There are no Variants of High Consequence circulating in the United States at this time. Variants of High Consequence show “clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants.” There will inevitably be other variants which arise, such as a Lambda variant and Delta Plus variant which are Variants of Interest at this time. For now, the Delta variant is predominant.

Vaccination

Since we are seeing more infections in vaccinated individuals, does this mean that the vaccine doesn’t work anymore? No

Is it possible the new variants have changed enough that the vaccines just don’t work anymore? See the discussion about variants of High Consequence.

Does this mean that immunity from the vaccine can wear off, and a booster is needed? We do not have extensive data on this, although we expect to have a great deal more in the weeks ahead.

The CDC has just made recommendations that a booster vaccine be given to people 8 months after initially being protected with one of the two mRNA vaccines (that is, 2 weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines). If you are seriously immunocompromised then a booster is recommended now. Beginning September 20th, the rest of the vaccinated population will be eligible for a booster shot in roughly the same order as we saw for the first vaccines. We are working with the Health Department to obtain booster vaccines for the clinic and will keep you informed.

Identification

Testing is one of the keys to stopping transmission. We offer a variety of testing options which you can view HERE.

Treatment

The mainstay of treatment remains supportive care, with monitoring of oxygen levels at home to make sure they remain above 92%. Shortness of breath is still the most urgent symptom to send patients to the hospital for further evaluation. If you are aged 65 or older, or have a BMI over 25 and you contract COVID, you may be eligible for an outpatient monoclonal antibody infusion. A doctor’s order is required to receive monoclonal antibodies at several infusion centers nearby, including Inova. Please note that the available data does NOT support the use of steroids, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, high dose Vitamin C infusions, or other drugs in the outpatient setting. Antibiotics can help a secondary bacterial infection if one develops.

Summary

In summary, The Delta variant SARS-CoV-2 virus has taken COVID-19 to a different level. It is spreading fast and can be life-threatening, particularly to those who aren’t vaccinated. It’s important to note that the vaccines continue to be effective against serious illness and death. Perhaps the biggest lesson we have learned in the past few months is that vaccines WORK. They keep people safe from severe illness. If you have not yet been vaccinated, I strongly urge you to get your “Fauci Ouchies.”

Boosters are now recommended starting immediately for those with serious autoimmune issues, and after September 20th for other vaccinated individuals.

Please continue to wear a mask, avoid indoor crowds, and stay current on vaccines!

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Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MD about 10 hrs ago
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The scenario plays out like this… you’re sitting at home watching reruns of Friends when your vision blurs. Minutes later your head feels like it's set in a vice, and someone is cranking the lever. With your head throbbing, the nausea kicks in. After making a bathroom stop (goodbye lunch), you climb into bed and pull the covers over your face, lying still in the dark. Can you relate? This is called migraine, and sadly this illness is all too common. ● Approximately 39 million people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide have migraines ● Most people with migraine have 1 to 2 attacks per month which can extend from 4 hours to 3 days ● 36 billion is spent each year on healthcare and loss of productivity due to migraines Add onto those staggering stats this surprise—WOMEN are at greatest risk. Studies show that 8 out of 10 people with migraine are females. While research isn’t fully conclusive as to why, the data points to women’s hormone levels changing. ➡️ If you are battling migraines, please know that you do not need to suffer alone. At Eileen West, MD, and Associates, we are here to help you find the right treatment to prevent migraines and make them less painful. You have a life to lead. We’re here to help you on that journey and provide exceptional care. ⭐️ June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. Share your migraine questions below… We’d love to help. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #nham

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 2 days ago
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IT’S SELF-CARE SUNDAY. We’re back this week to focus on the importance of self-care and giving you tips on how to practically care for the physical, mental, emotional, & social parts of you. Today’s self-care tip is simple but necessary: Find Ways To Relax Our American society prides itself on doing, doing, doing. Here’s the truth - busy doesn’t equal beneficial. We need a balance of work, play, and rest. Your mind, body, and emotions need periods of relaxation in order to refuel. Here are 10 Ways You Can Relax: ● Meditate ● Do Yoga ● Get a massage ● Take a nature walk or hike ● Journal ● Swim ● Listen to calming music ● Sit in the sun ● Color ● Read a book Self-care isn’t selfish, it is essential. Your brain and body need downtime. Do yourself a favor & RELAX. ➡️ What is your favorite way to relax? Tell us in the comments. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfax

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 6 days ago
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More than 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes can occur during the day or night and have a range of severity. If you fall into the category of moderate to severe, here are 6 tips to help you find relief: 1. Keep the temperature in your home cool. 2. Reduce stress with yoga, tai chi, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture & massage. 3. Eliminate hot drinks, hot foods, alcohol, caffeine, and cigarette smoking 4. Wear light, breathable clothing during the day and to bed. 5. Sleep with cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a cool-fabric pillow. Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night. Cool down with a bedside fan. 6. When a hot flash is starting, try “paced respiration”—slow, deep, abdominal breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe only 5 to 7 times per minute, much more slowly than usual. ➡️ There are some prescription treatments to help with menopausal symptoms. Talk with your primary care doctor to discuss the best path for you. If you currently are seeking a provider, we are here to advocate for your total wellbeing and provide knowledgeable and personal care. Please reach out to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help! References: The North American Menopause Society (mnflashes.pdf), Stat from National Library of Medicine #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #menopause

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