Each week, MLive asks readers questions related to COVID-19 and publishes a handful, along with answers collected by our health reporters from past and new reporting.
In recent segments, we’ve answered questions about getting a booster while symptomatic and why vaccinated people get infected.
Below are some questions we received this week. If you have a question, please send it to [email protected] and it may be mentioned in future reports.
Q: My husband had COVID in May 2020 and lost his sense of taste and smell. He is almost 18 months since contracting COVID and still has not fully regained his sense of smell and some smells are far from what they were and some smells are the same as others when they are completely different. Has the virus permanently damaged its sensory receptors and/or nerves, or does the virus simply live in its nerves to prevent its scent from returning? Does anyone know if there is a cure for it or if there are any recommendations for him to sharpen his senses?
This question prompted MLive to interview a few ear, nose and throat experts to better understand the process of registering odors and what COVID-19 does to it. The full story can be found here.
In summary, viral infections such as COVID-19 can damage the nerve fibers in the roof of the nose and the supporting cells around it. That damage, as well as the inflammatory response to the infection, makes it difficult for molecules to reach the nerve fibers, resulting in loss of smell.
In most documented cases, the sense has returned after a few weeks/months, but there are cases where a person has been gone for years or never regained their full sense of smell. Doctors said it’s not because the virus lives in your cells, but that the damage is too severe or the environment isn’t conducive to regeneration. More research is needed to determine whether certain conditions predispose a person to long-term loss of senses.
There are a few remedies that have proven helpful for some. They include the use of nasal steroids to reduce inflammation and/or a neti pot to cleanse and hydrate the nose. There is also a technique where the individual undergoes olfactory training therapy with the use of essential oils to regain some sense of smell. Check out the full MLive article for more information.
Q: I, as well as everyone else in my household, had COVID over a year ago. We also all received our first two doses of the vaccine. Do we need a booster?
There is some evidence that the combination of natural and vaccine-induced immunity creates a strong hybrid level of protection against COVID-19. In between the two ways of protection, you can be expected to be well prepared in case you encounter the coronavirus in the near future.
Many studies have shown that protection against reinfection for more than 10 months is “strong and persistent,” according to a report published in The Lancet. What is not fully understood is how long that protection will last and whether it will protect against different strains of the coronavirus. In some cases of viral infections, the protection can be lifelong, while others, such as the flu, don’t even offer annual protection due to mutations of the virus.
Researchers are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 and the different levels of protection against it. That’s partly why doctors continue to recommend available vaccines, including the booster doses. Boosters are not yet available to everyone, but health officials are recommending them for individuals at greater risk for severe COVID-19 who ended their primary regimen at least six months ago.
It is best to talk to your doctor to see if a booster is recommended for you.
Q: I recently tested positive for COVID-19. I have two children aged 14 and 11. They have been at my house since being quarantined. My question is, can I start vaccinating them now without being tested for COVID? Or should they be tested before being vaccinated. They have no symptoms.
The CDC’s recommendation for unvaccinated individuals is to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to someone who tested positive. If you want to have them tested, you should wait until at least the fifth day after their close contact for the most accurate test results.
A person should typically wait until they no longer have to isolate or quarantine before seeking a vaccine. However, health officials said the recommendation could change based on a person’s risk factors for severe COVID-19. It is recommended that you check with your doctor to determine when is the best time to vaccinate your children.
Q: My children aged 10 and 11 are now eligible for COVID vaccination. I’d rather wait a month or so before vaccinating until there is more data on this age group, but I’m also feeling a bit of pressure because the school mask mandate expires on January 1. Are masks really not needed any longer after a (presumably low) percentage of this young age group has been vaccinated, regardless of community transmission?
I have forwarded your question to Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s medical director. Her advice: get your children vaccinated as soon as possible. As the mother of a 7-year-old, she had her son vaccinated and felt great relief when she did.
“When you talk to healthcare providers; if you talk to doctors and scientists across the state, not only were we some of the first people to be vaccinated ourselves, but the vast majority of us are very excited and excited about vaccinating our kids,” she said. think that speaks of the safety and efficacy of these vaccines.
“If you’re on the fence, don’t just think of this as a new product. Think of this as a product that has been around for several months, that millions of people have received and done well.”
As for the mask part, Bagdasarian noted that masks work best for limiting the spread of the coronavirus when everyone wears them in a certain environment. She said any discussion of abolishing masks in schools and childcare facilities at this point is premature, as less than 50% of children ages 12 to 19 have been vaccinated after being eligible for more than six months.
The state health department strongly encourages schools to have mask requirements for students and staff, although only 42% of districts have such policies. State leaders have declined to issue a mandate, but health officials have long said masks are an important prevention tool, while virus transmission rates remain high. Districts without mask requirements have to deal with higher files.
Q: Would it be safe to get the booster since I had pulmonary embolism after the first vaccines?
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot blocks one of the arteries in the lungs. Overall, as many as 900,000 Americans will experience a pulmonary embolism each year.
With regard to COVID-19, blood clotting has occurred in patients with moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, and the risk of developing blood clots with COVID-19 is greater if you have other conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or cancer or if you have had blood clots in the past.
There have been some rare but serious cases of blood clotting in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but there seems to be no evidence of an increased risk of blood clotting following the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
However, as someone with a previous case of developing blood clots, it would be helpful to see your doctor before seeking a booster shot.
To find a vaccine near you, eligible residents can visit Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccine website or visit VaccineFinder.org. Shots are available through health systems, pharmacies, health departments, doctor’s offices, and other registered providers.
Send an email to [email protected] to submit your question.
Read more on MLive:
Why should children be vaccinated against COVID-19 and other questions answered by Michigan doctors?
Munson Healthcare shifts to ‘pandemic’ status, other Michigan hospitals feel surge in COVID patients
University of Michigan reports spike in COVID-19 cases after Halloween, MSU game
Newly vaccinated kids are excited about sleepovers, vacations, trips to Dave & Buster’s