Home Gesundheit CDC könnte die COVID-Isolationszeit verkürzen: Was das bedeuten könnte

CDC könnte die COVID-Isolationszeit verkürzen: Was das bedeuten könnte

von NFI Redaktion

On February 23, 2024 – Is shorter better? Or simply more practical? Reports suggest that CDC will shorten its COVID-19 isolation recommendations from 5 days to 24 hours starting in April.

The agency seems to be walking a tightrope between reducing Covid transmission, including the JN.1 variant, and the reality that many people find it difficult to stay away from work or school for days.

It is expected that the agency will recommend 24 hours under two conditions: as long as the person remains fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms are mild and improving. But what about those at higher risk for more severe COVID outcomes? Why wait until April? Has the science around COVID changed or just our behavior?

We reached out to some experts to get answers.

It remains to be seen whether the likelihood of people isolating for 24 hours is greater, or whether an unintended message about the seriousness of COVID is being sent.

„I am concerned that people may not take isolation seriously if it is so short,“ said Purvi Parikh, MD, an immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network, a nonprofit advocacy organization for people with these conditions based in Fairfax, VA.

Eyal Oren, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the San Diego State University School of Public Health, said: „The science around COVID has not really changed. COVID is just as contagious, and one could argue that the JN.1 variant is even more contagious,“ he said.

One concern is that people may interpret the change as meaning COVID is less serious, he said. It could create the false impression that „something has suddenly changed.“

Additionally, it may not be sensible in every case to base isolation on the presence of fever. One could be contagious for 24 hours without a fever, said Parikh, who is also an infectious disease clinical assistant professor in the departments of medicine and pediatrics at the Langone School of Medicine at New York University in New York City.

Someone who tests positive for COVID is likely still contagious after five days, said Oren.

„We are still recording about 1,500 COVID deaths per week in the United States. This is still a virus that puts many more people in the hospital and kills more than the flu,“ he said. COVID is „not as bad as it was, but 1,500 people per week – or more than 200 per day – is a lot.“

If the CDC continues with the recommendation, Bruce Farber, MD, Chief Public Health and Epidemiology Officer at Northwell Health in New York, hopes they remain flexible, as COVID is unpredictable. „If the situation changes and there is a large peak in the fall… that should be reconsidered,“ he said.

The move „ignores the increased risk that this change poses for the most vulnerable,“ said Brian Koffman, MDCM. Diagnosed with blood cancer chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2005, he counts himself among the nearly 7% of people with weakened immune systems.

„These changes will reinforce the need for me and other immunocompromised individuals to continue avoiding gatherings, wearing a mask indoors, and practicing careful hand hygiene,“ he said. „This will make restaurant visits and other indoor events even riskier.“

„Many – myself included – will consider the risk unaffordable and choose to stay at home.“

The protection of these higher-risk populations from COVID can help reduce the risk for the larger population, said Koffman. „We have clear evidence that new variants often arise in those infected with weakened immune systems, so their protection benefits everyone.“

A Matter of Timing

As many people are testing for COVID at home and not reporting their results, it is more difficult to determine overall case and transmission numbers. However, of those officially tested, nearly 10% are currently positive, according to CDC COVID Tracker data.

COVID is not the only virus circulating during this winter respiratory season, as RSV and the flu continue to make people sick.

The CDC may be pausing to overcome a COVID surge associated with the winter months. „They are waiting until April because the RSV season will be over and COVID numbers will likely be significantly lower than in the winter months,“ said Farber.

Furthermore, the pandemic is not the same as it was two years ago, he said. „There is a great immunity to COVID.“

There is also the practical question of how many individuals with Covid symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID actually stay in isolation for a full five days. „While I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s not safer to wear a mask and isolate for five full days… the reality is that most people do not follow these rules,“ said Farber.

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