Alabama doctors discuss identifying COVID-19 in cold, flu season

Published: Jan. 9, 2022 at 4:57 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Doctors fully expect folks to get sick during the winter months, even before the coronavirus.

“For reasons that we don’t quite understand cold weather does seem to be associated with an increased risk of respiratory illnesses,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

While it is the cold and flu season, medical experts believe you should never assume – especially with COVID-19 variants, such as omicron and delta, on the loose.

“Everything looks like COVID,” Stubblefield said. “There are very few symptoms that are very particularly COVID, other than the loss of taste or smell, which is still that very, very peculiar symptom that nothing else seems to cause.”

With similar symptoms, experts stress the importance of COVID-19 testing.

“Don’t make that decision based on a clinical judgment that, ‘oh, this is how I felt when I had the flu before,’” said Dr. Aruna Arora with the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

The doctor adds that knowing your status plays a big role in cutting down on community transmission.

“The contagiousness and the exposure that’s happening when you go to the grocery store without a mask, having the very symptoms that omicron has is extraordinarily dangerous to the community,” Arora said.

Additionally, getting tested provides the health department with a more accurate view of how the pandemic is playing out.

“Doctors’ offices and places that diagnose Coronavirus infections are required to report those to the state, which helps us with our numbers and our percent positivity that we track on our dashboard,” Stubblefield said.

For those at a high risk who can’t afford an inaccurate test result, Dr. Stubblefield recommends the PCR test. A laboratory will determine your results and sent those back within a day or so.

Health officials continue to advise those in need of a test not to visit the emergency room, as it can overwhelm hospital staff.

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