How can Montréalns protect themselves from Omicron?

“We really need to think about whether it’s a good idea to have meetings,” says one expert.

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Fears of being infected by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are increasing as cases skyrocket in Quebec.


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The Montreal Gazette spoke with medical experts for advice on the best way to avoid contracting the virus, what to do if the result is positive, and what the future may bring.

How prevalent is Omicron now?

“We are one of the labs that tests for Omicron and Delta, and what we have seen in the last 20 days is that we have gone from being 100 percent Delta … to now we are almost 90 percent Omicron, “Said Dr. Raymond Tellier, a specialist in the treatment of coronavirus at the McGill University Health Center.

What is the best way to avoid getting infected?

Because COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through the transmission of aerosols, it is best to maintain proper physical distance, wash your hands, wear a mask in public, and avoid being in a crowded indoor space or any indoor space without good ventilation. And get vaccinated.


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The solution to containing the spread is the same as in previous waves of the pandemic: Deploy vaccines quickly to prevent people from getting sick enough to be admitted to a hospital, said Dr. Donald Vinh, infectious disease specialist and microbiologist. MUHC physician.

Parallel to the vaccines, there are the physical measures. With Omicron far more contagious than previous variants, ordinary surgical masks are less effective, Vinh said; Masks that filter aerosols like the N95 and KN95 masks are better. Higher level surgical masks, known as Level 3, should also be considered.

It’s a good idea to improve ventilation by keeping windows and vents open in kitchens or bathrooms, Vinh said. Or use portable HEPA air filtering devices, which have been shown to filter viruses.


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Is it safe to socialize outdoors?

“We know that aerosol-borne COVID-19 acts much like cigarette smoke, so it can be helpful to visualize it like this,” Tellier said. “If you’re sitting on a bench next to someone and they’re talking to your face, you have to think, ‘If they were smoking, could they contact me?’ If you are sitting six feet away and there is a light breeze, this is probably not the case.

Does Omicron make COVID-19 less severe? If so, could it be considered positive that many people become infected, develop antibodies, and perhaps cause a slowdown in spread?

“I think this is a dangerous idea and an illusion,” Tellier said. “I think at this point, it would be dangerous to make plans based on that assumption.”


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Data from South Africa suggesting that Omicron could cause a milder form of COVID-19 is preliminary and mostly involves people who are younger or who had immunity through vaccines or previous infections, Tellier said. The outlook for older people, or those who are not immunized, could be very different, he added. Also, the immunity gained from a natural infection is not as strong or long-lasting as that from vaccines.

Will smaller family gatherings be safe?

“We really need to think about whether it’s a good idea to have meetings,” Tellier said. “The problem is: how can we know if we are COVID-free or not? Protection against the disease is only 30 percent, even with two doses, so if you’re exposed, you’re very likely to get it. “


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Rapid tests are helpful, but because the viral load with Omicron rises rapidly, a test may not detect the signs early in transmission. At the time of the meeting, an infected person could be very contagious without knowing it.

“People who are vulnerable due to their age or pre-existing conditions should really think about it,” Tellier said. “It is heartbreaking, but this is the reality.”

What are the symptoms of Omicron?

Some people have symptoms similar to those of a cold. Others have the typical symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, muscle aches everywhere. Some have no symptoms.

Once you receive your booster, how soon will it start to work?

With the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, it takes 14 days for injections to boost immunity. But with a booster dose, Ontario Medical Director Kieran Moore said, “Within five to seven days, you have a significant increase in antibody production.” Very soon after, he added, “you have a good level of protection.”


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What should you do if you start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on the day of your booster appointment?

You should stay home, said Dr. Michael Warner, clinical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto. If you have symptoms, you need to isolate yourself.

Health officials say that a 30-day time frame is the typical recommendation for how long people should wait for a booster dose after being infected.

Susan Schwartz and The Montreal Gazette’s The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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