Top TGH doctor says omicron leading to different symptoms, treatment

Posted at 10:42 PM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 23:24:52-05

TAMPA, Fla — A surge in new cases doesn't necessarily mean a surge in hospitalizations. That's the guidance a top doctor at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is giving out.

"I do think it's related to the fact that many people can have this and have few symptoms," said TGH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peggy Duggan.

Dr. Duggan tells ABC Action News those who are vaccinated are having the mildest cases of COVID-19 right now and often folks don't even know they have it.

"The symptoms are more in the upper respiratory tract, not as many of kind of what made people so sick during the delta was pneumonia those really serious pneumonias that kind of settled in the lower respiratory tract. That's the big difference, a lot of sneezing with this one actually," said Dr. Duggan.

But that's not the only difference they're seeing with the omicron variant. Dr. Duggan says it also appears people aren't as infectious for as long as they were with other variants.

"We're seeing that if you do an antigen test about 5 to 7 days after the initial infection. A lot of patients won't actually be shedding the virus anymore, they won't be infected," she said.

It's a discovery that led the CDC to switch up its guidance on quarantine rules Monday, cutting the suggested isolation time from 10 days to five days.

And differences in this variant have meant differences in the type of treatments that doctors are using. At TGH, they've now switched from the Regeneron monoclonal antibodies to the Sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatment, because it's more effective.

"We're working on getting that supply in place, but also using some careful planning for our most vulnerable patients to be eligible for that," said Dr. Duggan.

But in a sea of change, one thing has remained the same. Doctors say only come to the ER if it's a true emergency.

And if you need a test, they say you should go to urgent care or a testing site.

"It really does create a lot of crowding in the emergency department. It can also cause challenges for patients who are really ill to get seen in a short span of time," said Dr. Duggan.

When it comes to COVID-19 tests and availability, Walgreens and CVS say the recent demand for at-home tests has led to some shortages on the shelves. But they say they're working on it. In the meantime, both pharmacy giants say they have plenty of PCR and rapid tests available by appointment, in locations across the country.