Windsor·Q&A

You have symptoms — now what? Your COVID-19 questions answered

CBC Windsor asked some of your COVID-19 questions to internist and epidemiologist Dr. Fahad Razak at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

From Omicron symptoms to the latest restrictions, here's what you should know

A sign instructs people to wear a face covering before entering a building. (CBC)

CBC Windsor asked some of your COVID-19 questions to internist and epidemiologist Dr. Fahad Razak at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Razak also sits on the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. 

How can I tell if I have COVID-19?

Dr. Fahad Razak: It's honestly tough to tell right now. The reason I say that is the access to testing has been restricted and without testing you can't be 100 per cent sure.

However, a few things, the symptoms that we have talked about with COVID-19 since the beginning, so fever, body ache, fatigue, especially respiratory symptoms so trouble breathing and cough, those tend to still be the classic symptoms people report with an Omicron infection.

A little bit less fo the loss of smell, loss of taste than we saw with earlier waves. But still those are the typical symptoms and as of now, flu is still relatively rare in the province, so really not seeing a lot of cases of flu. So if you have those symptoms, very high risk at this point that you do have the Omicron variant, less likely that you have the flu.

Dr. Fahad Razak is an internist and epidemiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Razak also sits on the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.  (St. Michael's Hospital website)

If I suspect I have the omicron variant, what should I do? 

If you can get access to testing, it's still a good idea. That testing could be access to a rapid test ... if you do have one of those and it's positive, you have it, that's for sure.

If you're feeling sick this is now a good time to call your public health unit or your family doctor to see if you can get access to a PCR test and especially if you're one of the people who are at higher risk, so older in age, if you have any other health conditions, your public health unit might be able to prioritize you to get one of those tests, if they're available.

Whether you can get a test and it's positive or you can't get a test and you're suspicious, that's the time to do all of the isolation steps to help protect exposing other people.

If I am fully vaccinated and have a booster shot, how worried do I need to be?

If you're fully vaccinated and especially if you're boosted — you've done an amazing job to protect yourself, but you can still get infected ... The good news is from everything we're seeing in the data, the people who are triple vaccinated are not getting severe disease by and large.

According to Razak, if you have both vaccines, including a booster, you should be protected against long-COVID symptoms. (Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press)

Everything we know about this other entity, that we also know about, called long COVID, which is having persistent symptoms for many weeks after infection, vaccination seems to protect pretty strongly against that as well. We're waiting for more data on Omicron, but from what we've seen if you're vaccinated and you do get a break through infection, your chance of developing long COVID also goes down.

 Children younger than five can't be vaccinated right now, how big of a concern is that? 

It's a concern for sure and you know all I can say is  take all the steps that you can. 

The number who are getting severely ill is still relatively low so that's some solace. Here in Canada we've had a couple of cases of kids getting really sick, there's been a couple of deaths in the province that are likely related to COVID-19 but we're a very very large province and so those deaths are extremely tragic but in a province this size they're still relatively low compared to other things.

The province put in new restrictions that came into effect Wednesday. Would we have been in a better place if these had been in place before Christmas? 

If you put in tight public health restrictions, if you restrict access to shops, prevent people from going to social gatherings or religious gatherings, you're going to have less cases but whether that's the right thing to do I think is more than just science. 

People have suffered a lot these last two years and the holiday season is incredibly important for all of us who haven't seen family and hadn't had any downtime and ... many parts of the economy rely on the holiday season for their revenue.

Some answers may have been edited for length.

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