What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed: The latest guide

COVID-19 cases increase again, and the omicron variant of coronavirus, which appears to spread faster than previous variants but results in milder disease, nourishes the increase.

The increasing number of cases has led to a number of questions about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, including what to do if testing positive for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on how long people should be quarantined or isolated after a possible exposure to COVID-19, or if they test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

In general, the CDC recommends that people isolate themselves for at least five days after being tested positive. If their symptoms improve after day five, or they have remained asymptomatic, they may leave isolation and wear a mask around others, the CDC says.

Boosted and newly vaccinated individuals do not need to stay home if they may be exposed to coronavirus, but should wear a mask for 10 days. People who are unvaccinated or have walked more than six months since receiving an mRNA vaccine or two months since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should stay home for at least five days and then wear a mask around others for an additional five days, the CDC says. .

But the new guide has led some to criticize the CDC. Dr. Rochelle Walensky has said the guidelines come amid a changing understanding of the virus’ transmissibility and the rise in omicron cases. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while we follow science,” she said on December 27.

In Michigan, the state Department of Health said it would not follow the relaxing guidelines, and the White House’s top adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the CDC was “very well aware” of the setback. Fauci is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, separate from the CDC.

Here’s what you need to know if you are testing positive for coronavirus or if you have been exposed to COVID-19:

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How long is someone contagious after being tested positive for COVID-19?

The exact time a person is contagious after a positive test can vary depending on a number of factors – such as whether they are symptomatic or how long after exposure they tested positive.

The CDC says that most coronavirus transmissions occur within one to two days before the onset of symptoms and two to three days after.

In an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Walensky said that 80% to 90% of a person’s transmissibility is thought to occur within the five-day period before symptom onset and after.

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Even though it represents the majority of the transmission, it may still be possible for someone to be contagious before or after, or if they remain asymptomatic.

“We know these tests can stay positive for a while,” Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist from the Allergy and Asthma Network, told USA TODAY in December. “After 10 days, it is very unlikely that you will be contagious.”

When is the best time to test for coronavirus after symptoms begin?

The CDC says that if you develop symptoms, you should be tested and isolated immediately until you receive the results.

If you do not develop symptoms, the CDC says, test at least five days after exposure. While testing before or after can still detect the presence of coronavirus, five days after exposure is the optimal time, according to the CDC.

What is an antigen test? What is a PCR test?

Most self-tests are rapid antigen tests, which can detect the virus when a person is contagious and is likely to transmit it to others. The tests detect a viral protein on the surface of the coronavirus.

However, a negative antigen test should in most cases be “presumptive”, says the CDC, and may require further confirmation. Antigen testing works best when a person’s viral load is highest, which means that a test early in an infection or at a later stage can lead to a negative result, according to the CDC. If someone receives a negative antigen test early on an infection, they can become contagious later and will be tested positive.

Molecular PCR tests are more sensitive and can detect traces of the virus over an extended period of time during an infection. They are part of a larger class of tests called nucleic acid amplification tests or NAATs. Although some PCR tests can be performed at home, most are administered in clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals or large test sites.

PCR tests and other NAATs can remain positive for weeks to months after an infection when a person is no longer contagious, according to the CDC. They remain the “gold standard” for diagnosis, the CDC says.

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What does one do COVID-19 positive self-test result means?

If someone tests positive for coronavirus, regardless of vaccination status, the CDC says they should stay home and isolate themselves for at least five days.

After five days, if this person remains asymptomatic or their symptoms disappear, they can leave home if they wear a mask around others to reduce the risk of transmission, the CDC says.

CDC guidance prior to the update in late December said individuals who were positive should isolate themselves for 10 days from the first full day after developing symptoms. Asymptomatic people were instructed to isolate themselves for 10 days after their positive test result under the old guideline.

If I test positive, how do I isolate then?

Isolation is intended for individuals who have tested positive for the virus. People who insulate should stay home and stay away from others in their household. The CDC says a designated “hospital” and bathroom should be used for the infected person.

If I may be exposed to COVID-19, how do I quarantine?

Quarantine is different from isolation because it is intended for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, the CDC says.

If someone is exposed to COVID-19, but they are vaccinated and boosted, they do not have to stay home for a quarantine period unless they develop symptoms, the CDC says. However, they should wear a mask around others for 10 days.

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The CDC says people should stay home for five days for quarantine if they have not been vaccinated, they have not been boosted, or it is more than six months since they received the Pfizer or Moderna shots or more than two months since Johnson & Johnson the shot.

After five days, they can leave home, but should wear a mask around others. If they can not quarantine, they should wear a mask around others for 10 days, the CDC says. If at any time they develop symptoms, they should stay home.

All people, regardless of vaccination status, should also take a test on day 5, if possible, after an exposure to the virus, the CDC says.

Am I free to quarantine after five days if I take one COVID-19 sample?

The CDC guide says you should wear a mask around others for 10 days if you have had a possible exposure.

While on “Colbert,” Walensky addressed the question of how to interpret an antigen test five days after an exposure.

“If it’s positive, stay home for another five days. If it’s negative, I’ll say you still really need to wear a mask. You may still have some transferability in front of you. You probably still should not visit Grandma “You should not board a plane, and you should still be quite careful when you are with other people by wearing a mask all the time.”

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What over-the-counter medication can I take if I test positive for COVID-19?

Dr. Anita Gupta, an adjunct assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told USA TODAY that people who test positive for coronavirus can take popular painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for soreness and pain.

“It will typically lower the fever and help them feel ok,” Gupta said.

However, she noted that recommendations for pain medication may vary for children or the elderly. And over-the-counter medications will not treat “the virus, but they will just keep people generally comfortable.”

Gupta said people experiencing dry cough may use cough medicine containing dextromethorphan for some relief, while people with a productive cough may want to use medicine containing guaifenesin. But cough medicine should not be used for “a long period of time.”

“If you have to take COVID-19 at home, the most important thing is just to rest. Stay hydrated. These drugs will not make COVID-19 go away faster,” Gupta said.

In addition, it has not been proven that over-the-counter vitamins can treat or prevent COVID-19.

Fact check: Over-the-counter vitamins that have not been proven to treat prevent COVID-19

How long does it take to recover from COVID-19?

Most people who test positive for the virus recover within a few weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. And health officials say most people are able to recover from the virus at home.

But millions of Americans have taken months to recover from COVID-19 or are still struggling with their disease. These “long-distance carriers” can face a wide range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, brain fog, pain and more.

For millions, COVID-19 will not stop: Doctors are striving for answers on how to alleviate misery for long-distance carriers.

What treatments are available for COVID-19?

The Food and Drug Administration last month approved the use of two antiviral drugs, Pfizer’s Paxlovid and molnupiravir. Paxlovid can prevent almost 90% of severe COVID-19 among those at high risk, and molnupiravir can prevent serious disease about 30% of the time.

Monoclonal antibodies or drugs derived from humans whose immune system has fought COVID-19 have helped people across the country at risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19, among other treatments.

However, experts warn that two widely used monoclonal antibodies are unlikely to be effective against the proliferation of the COVID-19 omicron variant. Some healthcare providers have struggled to get enough doses of a third monoclonal antibody treatment that appears to be effective against the variant.

New COVID treatments are coming: Will they help fight the omicron attack?

Starring: Ken Alltucker and Adrianna RodriguezUSA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Positive COVID Test? Guidelines for symptoms, self-test, quarantine

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