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Can you get infected with both omicron and delta at the same time?

COVID-19 omicron
Posted at 4:20 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 17:57:31-05

(WXYZ) — As coronavirus cases climb here in the United States, Americans want to know if it’s possible to get infected with the omicron and delta variants at the same time. What’s the likelihood of this happening?

I’m hearing that same question from my patients, so many people are concerned about this variant and what lies ahead. Now, epidemiology experts have indicated that people could get infected with both delta and omicron together. We’ve seen co-infection before. Two studies — one in Brazil and one in France — have researched patients infected with two different strains of the virus at the same time. But I don’t want people to panic because the chance of this happening is rare.

Science tells us that infections typically involve one strain at a time. What’s most likely to happen, looking at how rapidly Omicron is spreading, is that Omicron will push out Delta. Just like Delta pushed out the Alpha variant.

If anyone has COVID-19, you need to isolate for 10 full days. That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines tell us. Now I know that the United Kingdom has shortened their isolation period from 10 days to seven, as long as the person takes two tests and both are negative. And there’s a possibility that the U.S. will follow, mainly because of the concern that too many health care workers could end up sick due to omicron. This could then lead to a serious shortage of hospital workers.

Another reason to shorten isolation time is because vaccinated people who get infected, tend to spread the virus at lower rates than unvaccinated people. But until the CDC changes its recommendations, please stay home 10 full days as omicron is so very contagious.

It’s great news that Pfizer's antiviral pill, Paxlovid, received emergency use authorization. And yes, it is expected to work against the omicron variant. Now what I really like about this new drug, is that it can be taken in your own home. The treatment consists of 30 pills — three pills are taken twice a day for five days.

Now, who can take the oral antiviral pills? Well, you must be at least 12 years old, weigh 88 pounds or more and be high-risk of developing severe illness.

The key thing to remember is that the pills need to be taken as soon as possible. Data showed the risk of hospitalizations or death was cut by 89% if the medication was taken within a few days of symptoms starting. The Federal Drug Administration statement says to take it within five days of symptom onset.

Now, if you’re wondering how you can get this drug, well, it’s only available with a doctor’s prescription. So, while I’m excited that we have a new treatment for COVID-19, I’d like to stress that it’s not a replacement for vaccines. So please, if you’re not vaccinated, get scheduled when you can.