FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As of Sunday, another 778 Allen County residents tested positive for COVID-19. With the Omicron variant and flu season in full swing, Fort Wayne health officials are advising caution.
But, how can you really tell if you have COVID-19 or any other illness? Parkview’s infectious disease expert says influenza germs are spreading more rapidly compared to this time last year.
Dr. Scott Stienecker, Infectious Disease specialist with Parkview Health, said that the Omicron variant is targeting the young adult age range.
“I think [COVID-19 and the flu] are two different diseases, but based on the CDC data, we are clearly seeing a marked upward trend, and we are really seeing that in the Indiana Department of health info as well,” said Steinecker. “It’s really being principally driven by school-age and college-age folks at this time, where we are seeing a very steep rise in influenza but we are also seeing the same kind of thing with COVID too.”
Steinecker said this is likely because less people are wearing masks as more people get vaccinated, and because symptoms of the omicron variant aren’t as severe as other strains of COVID-19, it can be hard to tell what you’re really sick with.
“With Alpha and Delta, we saw a lot more people who had presented with low oxygen rates and they had loss of taste and smell and we don’t really see that nearly as much with the omicron variant,” Steinecker said. “We also note that we don’t see a whole lot of folks with fever, that has not been a reliable symptom for these and we do have some people with some muscle aches and pains.”
Steinecker also advises people to wear medical-grade masks to protect themselves from the droplets that can fit through the weaving on cloth and non-medical grade masks.
“There has been a lot of data that has come out from agencies showing the effectiveness of different cloths and weaves we know that the gators that you see people use decreases the amount of droplets coming out by only about ten or 20 percent, so it’s really not doing much at all,” said Steinecker. “We know that the standard cloth mask can reduce those droplets by about 40 percent or so, The more layers there are and the tighter fitting there is, the better it is.”