Status: 03.02.2022 1:07 p.m
The number of corona infections is at an all-time high. Getting infected has never been more likely than now. What can and what do you have to do if you get caught?
Omikron has Germany firmly under control. The seven-day incidence has reached levels that until recently were unimaginable for Germany. Red tiles of the Corona-Warn-App become everyday companions for many. The likelihood of becoming infected and falling ill has never been higher.
But how do you even recognize the disease? What has to be considered after an infection and when is one considered to have recovered? Answers to important questions at a glance.
How do you recognize a Covid disease?
According to the Robert Koch Institute the most common signs of illness Covid-19 cough (in 42 percent), runny nose (in 31 percent) and fever (in 26 percent). A Covid disease can only be distinguished from a feverish cold by a positive test, says family doctor Nicola Buhlinger-Göpfarth from Pforzheim. The symptoms are very similar: headaches, body aches, dry cough, fatigue, diarrhea can also occur.
In contrast to Delta, there was more night sweats and loss of appetite with Omikron, and taste disorders tended not to occur. In general, the feeling of illness with omicron is usually not stronger, but longer than with another infection.
Positive Test and Symptoms: Now What?
First keep calm, says Buhlinger-Göpfarth. “Corona is very fearful, and even before Omikron, nine out of ten patients were only treated on an outpatient basis by a general practitioner.”
You should do what you usually do with high fever infections: “Take ibuprofen or paracetamol against the fever and pain if necessary, depending on what you tolerate better.” Drink a lot, such as hot tea, rest and treat the symptoms as you would with a normal cold. Usually it is a mild course, reports the doctor. Above all, people who have been vaccinated three times are well able to eliminate the high viral load.
People who belong to a risk group for a severe course, right the RKI However, contact your family doctor’s practice quickly or call other advisory bodies.
When do you have to go to the doctor? When to the hospital?
You should trust your own body, says the family doctor. The doctor’s office should be contacted if you have a fever over 39.5 degrees or shortness of breath. The emergency doctor is rarely necessary. Shortness of breath does not suddenly occur massively, but rather announce itself, sometimes accompanied by breathing noises such as rattling. Then you can go to the family doctor, who will check the oxygen saturation and listen to the lungs.
However, if the shortness of breath suddenly worsens, it may be advisable to call an ambulance to be taken to a clinic. But that is very rare, says family doctor Frank-Dieter Braun from Biberach. “I haven’t had a single hospital admission this year.” According to the Federal Ministry of Health, around ten percent of those infected become so seriously ill that they have to be treated in hospital.
Usually people with symptoms of illness are in contact with the doctor anyway, says Braun, if only because of the sick leave. His advice is usually: “Now wait a moment. If it gets worse, get in touch.”
Is a PCR test still necessary?
The test strategy has just changed. According to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, people who work in care or have contact with vulnerable groups should be prioritized for PCR tests. However, the doctors have not yet received any concrete instructions. The obligation to do a PCR test after a positive rapid test no longer exists in some countries.
A PCR test has never been necessary for sick leave in Germany, symptoms are enough. In order to later receive a recovered status, you need a nationwide PCR test. It is unclear whether this will remain the case, the test regulation is currently being revised.
Many family doctors still do PCR tests, but the evaluation of non-priority samples takes up to ten days.
How long does the isolation last?
The isolation (that’s what it’s called for infected people, for non-infected people it’s called quarantine) usually lasts ten days. After seven days, you can test yourself freely using a negative quick or PCR test and thus end the isolation early. In addition, those who are ill should be symptom-free for at least 48 hours or their recovery should be assessed by a doctor.
During this time, people who are not in quarantine have to take care of errands outside the home. Whether friend, family or delivery service: Purchases should be left in front of the door and not brought into the apartment.
Do contact persons in your own household have to be quarantined?
In principle yes. The quarantine ends after ten days without a test. Anyone who is symptom-free for 48 hours after seven days and can show a negative rapid antigen test can end the quarantine early. Do not have to be in quarantine:
- Persons with a booster vaccination, a total of three vaccinations are required (also applies to those vaccinated with Johnson&Johnson)
- Recovered from the 28th day to the 90th day from the date of taking the positive test
- Individuals who have received two vaccinations, from day 15 after the second vaccination to day 90 after vaccination (also applies to those vaccinated with Johnson&Johnson)
- Vaccinated recoveries (vaccinated with a breakthrough infection or recovered who received a vaccination following the illness)
There are also exceptions for students and children in care. As a contact person, they can end the quarantine after just five days with a negative PCR or rapid antigen test.
How much distance from family members?
“Since the virus is primarily transmitted via droplets and aerosols during personal contact, direct contact within the family should also be avoided or reduced as much as possible,” explains Ernst Tabori, medical director of the German Advice Center for Hygiene in Freiburg. That means, if possible: do not get together and eat together. The infected person should be separated from the others in their own room or area of the apartment.
If direct contact is unavoidable, for example when looking after children or caring for an infected person, the correctly worn FFP2 mask is a suitable and effective measure to protect yourself from infection.
Do you have to wash more often or dispose of the rubbish separately?
Both the test kits, tissues and other products used by the infected person should be disposed of in a closed garbage bag with the normal household waste. “It must be ensured that no other person comes into contact with the waste again. Always wash your hands with soap afterwards,” says hygiene expert Tabori.
The causative agent of the corona infection is no more environmentally resistant than other cold pathogens. Therefore, according to Tabori, a mild household cleaner is sufficient for cleaning surfaces. Routine disinfecting of the apartment is not necessary. The dishwasher is sufficient for used dishes.
The same applies to clothing. Just put it in the washing machine and let it wash through as usual. “Once the infection has been overcome, it’s a good time to change the bed linen. If the bed linen is soaked with sweat, for example because you had a fever, then of course earlier,” says Tabori.
When are you particularly contagious?
As with most viral infections, the incubation period is three to six days, says family doctor Buhlinger-Göpfarth. There is evidence that the time period for the Omicron variant is slightly shorter than that for Delta.
The exact period in which one is then contagious is not clearly defined according to the RKI. What is certain, however, is that the contagiousness is greatest shortly before and after the onset of symptoms and that a significant proportion of transmissions take place before the first clinical symptoms appear.
Hygienist Tabori explains: “Infected people are contagious as long as they excrete contagious viruses. The higher the viral load, the more virus particles they release and make the person opposite more likely to be infected.”
Who needs to be informed?
There are different rules here. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs in Baden-Württemberg, anyone who has tested positive themselves must inform their household members. You don’t have to tell the health department. You can inform other contact persons about your test. However, they do not have to isolate themselves without an order from the health department.
In the future, the health department will no longer routinely contact people who have tested positive, household members and other contact persons outside of outbreaks and settings with vulnerable groups.
When will normal life start again?
“I would not do sports again until 14 days after recovery,” says family doctor Braun. Guests can then be received again when the quarantine has ended, they have tested negative and are symptom-free.
The Federal Ministry of Health advises paying attention to possible long-term consequences after recovery and contacting a doctor if you have symptoms such as exhaustion, shortness of breath or difficulty concentrating.