By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
Does your food need salt, are you congested from allergies or a cold, or should you be concerned that it’s COVID-19?
Symptoms for COVID-19 and several viruses and respiratory illnesses are overlapping, leaving many wondering if they should get tested.
“There is so much overlap between the symptoms of these respiratory illnesses that the best thing to do is get tested,” said Sedgwick County Health Department community relations specialist Nicole Gibbs. “Some testing sites, including the Sedgwick County testing site on Harry in Wichita, offer testing that can distinguish between COVID-19, influenza and RSV.”
The Sumner County Health Department lists primary symptoms of COVID-19, the flu and allergies to give residents an idea of when an illness may actually be COVID-19.
According to SCHD, allergies are characterized by sneezing, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and red, watery, or itchy eyes. The flu symptoms could include a sudden fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. COVID-19 may be indicated by a fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Less common symptoms of COVID-19 may be aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, or diarrhea.
“One particular symptom in some cases of COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell,” said Gibbs. “But as anyone who has had a bad cold can attest, these senses are also diminished. It’s really best to get tested in order to take the right steps to get better and to protect others.”
Laura Rettig with the Sumner County Health Department recommends going to coronavirus.kdheks.gov for the latest local COVID-19 recommendations, updates, and testing information. The most current recommendations from the CDC can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Gibbs said that total cases, case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing in Sedgwick County.
“Case number increases are not what we are seeing in some other parts of the country, which suggests Kansas and Sedgwick County may be lagging a bit behind areas like New York and Washington D.C. where there is exponential case growth,” said Gibbs.
The Omicron variant may make it even more difficult to tell the difference between more common illnesses and COVID-19. Though public health officials and scientists are still studying the new variant, they suspect Omicron may have milder symptoms but may be more contagious than the previous Delta variant. Milder symptoms could make it more difficult for those infected to recognize symptoms. Conclusive information about the Omicron variant is still pending.
As COVID-19 continues to spread and hospitals both locally and nationwide see a surge in hospitalizations, public health officials continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated.
“There is simply no better prevention against severe illness and death than vaccines and boosters,” said Gibbs. “We are urging unvaccinated people to take advantage of this time before Omicron really hits our part of the county to go out now and get vaccinated. If it’s time, don’t wait to get boosted.”