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UNMC experts answer your questions about COVID
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UNMC experts answer your questions about COVID

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Douglas County Health Department volunteer David Maas prepares syringes at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Christ Community Church in Omaha on Feb. 2, 2021.

Nebraska hospital leaders warned Monday that the state's health systems are getting hammered by rising COVID numbers and staffing shortages.

As we approach two years of life with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, medical understanding of the virus and disease continues to grow.

As doctors have learned more about the virus, guidance has changed even as misinformation has flourished. In an effort to provide solid information, The World-Herald, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is soliciting reader questions about COVID-19.

This week’s answers were provided by Dr. Jasmine Marcelin, an infectious diseases physician at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.

Some family members have had COVID (not hospitalized) and feel getting the vaccine is not necessary. What’s your advice on this position?

After getting COVID, your body will produce some immune response, which is good. But it is not always a predictable response to know if the right antibodies or the right amount of antibodies will be produced. Vaccination helps to give your immune system a laser focus on the virus and produce that antibody response in a predictable and longer-lasting manner, so we would still recommend getting vaccinated once you have recovered from your illness.

Recently ABC reported on the efficacy of cloth masking, surgical masking, double surgical masking and N95 masking. Another common combination is double masking with a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask. How much or little protection does this combination offer?

Two properties that make masking work to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus or reduce your likelihood of spreading the virus are the number of layers and the closeness of fit. If you have access to KN95 masks or KF94 masks, those would be the best. However, if you do not have access to these, a cloth mask may be worn over a surgical mask to help ensure a closer fit, which then improves the function of this combination, which is better than a cloth mask alone and better than being unmasked.

My granddaughter does not want her girls, 7 and 9, vaccinated for COVID. She heard or read that the man who helped discover the vaccine said “It can cause the girls to be sterile and not able to have babies.” Is this true?

This is not true. There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause sterility or infertility. In fact, many people in the clinical trials studying the vaccines became pregnant while still on study and had no adverse effects for themselves or their babies. Since then, countless people of childbearing ages have been vaccinated who have gone on to deliver healthy babies. There is, however, a real risk of COVID-19 disease itself causing serious disease (like multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C) or causing long-term effects, some known (such as heart inflammation, brain fog and other long-COVID symptoms), and some unknown. The best way to protect the children in your life is to ensure they are vaccinated, wear well-fitting masks and avoid high-risk exposures like large gatherings.

Vaccinated, boosted Nebraskans 46 times less likely to need hospitals than unvaccinated ones

What quarantine guidelines do you suggest if you have been exposed to a person with COVID? What if you were wearing a mask, and they were wearing a mask — any quarantine or other safety recommendations in that case?

Quarantine recommendations depend on whether you have been vaccinated and what kind of exposure you had. See CDC guidance here.

Can you contract COVID in a warm-water pool?

COVID is transmitted primarily through respiratory particles that are breathed or coughed into the air by an infected person, so swimming in a pool should not increase risk of contracting COVID. However, if you are in a pool together with several other people, the closer you are together, the higher the risk of transmission, just as if you were standing outside of the pool.

Going into our third year of this crisis, why has there been nothing from our government agencies about maintaining a healthy immune system (Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, zinc, healthy eating, getting plenty of exercise, reduce stress, get plenty of rest, etc.)?

Maintaining a healthy immune system is absolutely important in helping your body to overcome illness. All of the suggestions above are important in maintaining a balanced body environment, but on their own are not sufficient to prevent or treat COVID-19. They are not mutually exclusive. The best approach is to do all of these things (take vitamins, get rest, exercise, balanced diet) AND additional preventive measures such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings which are high risk for transmission.

Why is it important for a COVID patient to stay hydrated?

When we are sick our body’s metabolism increases, which may cause us to lose fluid and electrolytes through sweat (or other bodily functions like diarrhea, vomiting or urination). This excess fluid loss can lead to dehydration, which can ultimately harm essential organs such as the kidneys. Therefore, it is important to stay hydrated during any illness, including COVID-19.

Send your questions to Executive Editor Randy Essex — randy.essex@owh.com — and we’ll forward the best ones to UNMC experts.

Responses from UNMC medical and public health professionals are general, and are not intended as individual medical advice. Individual medical questions, particularly in cases of current illness or symptoms, should be addressed by an individual’s medical professional.


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