COVID or Flu? Louisiana is one of 39 states with rising numbers due to new variant

BATON ROUGE – If it seems like it’s ‘really going around’ right now, that’s because it is. As summer progresses, COVID-19 cases are rising across the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting increases in 39 states and no declines observed anywhere in the country. 

Health officials are closely monitoring a newly identified variant of COVID-19 called KP.3. The variant, also known as FLiRT, has gained dominance in the United States. The KP.3 strain now accounts for about one-third of all cases in the U.S. between June 9 – June 22, 2024, per the CDC.

Dr. Jonathan Hinds, of Hinds Family Care, tells UWK that this strand, and others, typically present like a summer cold.

“Typically, patients will have fevers or chills. They could have a cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue. The thing that we all get tipped off about is that new loss of taste or smell and brain fog, which is real,” Hinds said.

Historically, COVID-19 infections have surged during summer due to heightened travel and indoor gatherings. This trend seems to continue this year, though experts predict that the current wave may result in fewer severe cases compared to previous seasons.

With flu season just ending, and symptoms very similar, Hinds says it may be very hard to tell the difference between influenza and COVID. 

“There’s still a lot of flu around this. I know a lot of times people just think the flu comes around the winter, even with it as hot as it is, there have been some positive cases that I’ve seen in my practice,” Hinds says.

Dr. Hinds suggests taking at home COVID tests first and if they are negative and you’re still not feeling well, consider getting tested for the flu. 

“These are viruses, so most of the time, you’re going to get better on your own,” he adds. “When I escalate things is after two or three days of taking Tylenol, Motrin, making sure you’re getting rest, drinking plenty of fluids, that things are getting worse, or if you’re a patient who has multiple other medical issues.”

For many patients, the thought of going into a doctor’s office, with heightened illnesses going around, is more worrisome than staying home and riding it out. That’s where physicians like Dr. Hinds come in with virtual clinics. Telemedicine, which enables medical consultations through web platforms and smartphone apps, necessitates that doctors possess licenses allowing them to treat patients regardless of their geographic location, rather than being restricted to a single place. Dr. Hinds is one of under 20 doctors in our country who are licensed in all 50 states. 

“A lot of the things that you can do in a general doctor’s office, we can do as well,” Hinds says.

CDC COVID Map

Louisiana numbers on the rise

Louisiana is one of the 39 states where the COVID numbers have been trending upwards, according to the CDC. Locally, in and around the Baton Rouge area, Patient Plus Urgent Care is seeing more people testing positive for COVID.

“So from our perspective, we’re seeing about a 13.9% positivity,” said Dr. Nikki Honoré with Patient Plus Urgent Care. “What that means is, of the patients that we see on a weekly basis, COVID-19 is about 13.9% and that’s a little bit of an uptick from the beginning of the summer. We were looking at about 10% COVID positivity, so it’s a small uptick.”

But that nearly 4% increase does not include the people conducting at-home tests and quarantining on their own if they test positive for COVID-19.

While the current strain will still give patients many, if not all the symptoms, this COVID-19 is not like it was when it first appeared in 2020, per Dr. Honoré.

“It’s not the COVID strain that’ll put you in the hospital and have you on a ventilator. Some folks are still having those types of symptoms, but it’s far and few in between. The COVID units in the hospitals have closed. There may be only one or two extra ICU’s to get those hard COVID cases, but for the most part, all of that is gone away,” said Dr. Honoré.

Dr. Honoré added they’re also starting to see more long-term effects from COVID-19. But she said it’s important to point out that researchers will not get a full synopsis of the true long-term effects of COVID-19 for another two to five more years since COVID came out in 2020 and it’s only been four years.

“Some respiratory issues, folks who may have not had long standing like allergies or those productive costs for long periods of time, we’re seeing those a lot more.”

The CDC recommends between 5-10 days of quarantine to prevent COVID from spreading to loved ones or at least 24 hours after the last time you ran fever.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area.

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