Could it be COVID-19 omicron variant symptoms or the flu? How to know when to get tested – Savannah Morning News

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Flu and cold season is upon us once again in a time of COVID-19. Now when people get sick they are wondering is it the flu? Is it the common cold? Or is it the omicron variant?
Public health officials in Georgia say it can sometimes be hard to know the difference.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies, colds, flu and the COVID omicron variant often are similar to one another. Without testing, it is difficult to determine whether the congestion is more than a cold, according to officials.
As the number of COVID cases surge across the nation, here’s how to determine the difference between a common cold, seasonal allergies and the coronavirus:
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The flu virus and COVID-19 are very similar when it comes to symptoms. Each can come with cough, shortness of breath, fever, headache, chills and a host of other symptoms, but there are some differences, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 
According to the CDC, compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.
The same goes for allergies and a cold. 
The biggest difference could be if someone loses their sense of taste and/or smell. 
Because some of the symptoms are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
As cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus surge,  Americans wonder how to approach the holidays and gather with friends and family. 
The pace of new cases in the USA is up 41% compared with a month ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data. For much of December, cases hovered around 120,000 but have jumped to more than 130,000 a day.
As people gather, health care officials across the country have urged people to take the same steps that have been effective at preventing or reducing the risk of COVID infection: vaccination, masks in indoor public places or around vulnerable people, social distancing, boosters if you received your first shots more than six months ago. Pay attention to the COVID numbers in your area; if there are a higher number of cases and a lower percentage of vaccinated people you may want to take more precautions.
The CDC has updated its guidance, recommending that all adults 18 and older should get a booster shot either six months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine.
The CDC has updated its guidance, recommending that all adults 18 and older should get a booster shot either six months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series or two months after their initial J&J vaccine.
Tuesday, presidential health adviser Anthony Fauci said vaccinated Americans don’t need to cancel their gathering plans. “If you don’t have the availability of the test and you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you should feel comfortable having a holiday meal or gathering with family members who are also vaccinated and boosted,” he said on NBC’s “Today.”
While some vaccinated people may get COVID-19 the risk of developing serious illness or dying is decreased, according to the government 
The variant has the same symptoms of COVID-19, but seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19, according to the CDC.
People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
The CDC announced the first known case of the omicron variant in the United States on Dec. 1, days after its rapid spread in South Africa and numerous mutations prompted worldwide concern. 
Experts had been warning that the variant was likely already in the U.S. in the days before the announcement.
Viruses constantly mutate and there is a worry that some variants might evolve enough to be more contagious, cause more severe illness or evade the protection that vaccines provide.
The name came from the World Health Organization, which uses the Greek alphabet for notable variants of viruses.
Health experts said COVID-19 vaccines are less effective against the new strain, which may lead to more breakthrough infections. Boosters provide more protection against omicron, but the CDC reported only 30% of the eligible population has received their booster.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19, reducing the number of days from 10 to five. 
Health officials similarly reduced the amount of time one should quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive. 
The changes come amid a recent surge in cases spurred by the omicron variant and concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines and businesses across the country. Research has suggested omicron, while more infectious, causes milder illness. CDC officials say the new guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.
More:CDC cuts isolation time for Americans who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to 5: Updates
As of Dec. 23, more than 1.3 million Georgia residents have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Another 239 are currently hospitalized due to it and more than 30,000 are believed to have died, according to Georgia Department of Public Health. 
As of Saturday, the omicron variant accounted for 73.2% of new COVID-19 infections in the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The week ending Dec. 11, it accounted for 12.6% of new cases. 
COVID-19 vaccines are available for anyone 5 and older in the state. Find where to get a COVID vaccine in the state here. 
Check out how your local hospital is fairing:


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