May 6—The virus for COVID-19 is still around, albeit not to the extent of past infections that saw local emergency rooms overflowing with sick patients.

Dr. Raul Magadia, infectious disease specialist and director of the pandemic unit at Regional Medical Center, said Friday that RMC has two patients in the COVID ward who have tested positive for the disease.

Magadia said that one patient is needing an ICU level of care and the other one was admitted Thursday night.

"For the past several days, maybe more than a week, we've only had one so we're up to two today and I think it kind of mirrors what is happening all over the country," Magadia said.

Magadia said that COVID is not completely gone even though a week ago the COVID ward at RMC was empty for a few days with no patients at all. Magadia said his colleagues have also reported a slim number of infected patients trickling in.

Magadia did say, however, a new COVID variant named Arcturus is making the rounds with a new type of symptom — "pink eye" or conjunctivitis.

"Those two patients that we have, they did not have pink eye, but I think most doctors who are seeing COVID in the clinics or even Urgent Care, that's what they are reporting that a lot of people are complaining about pink eye," Magadia said.

"I'm not saying that all pink eye is COVID, you can have pink eye because it's Alabama pollen season and things like that, it could be allergies or it could be plain and simple conjunctivitis from something else," he said.

Magadia said the symptoms of loss of taste, loss of smell and dry cough are still seen in the newer strain.

"I think they still have those symptoms but now it's conjunctivitis," he said.

"The good thing is it's kind of mild, not to the point that it's like a Delta type of infection where people are headed to the hospital getting intubated and sometimes even dying," he said.


"We have to protect ourselves. I know people are sick and tired of us talking about the vaccine," he said.

Magadia said the reason everyone is able to resume outside activities and attend other gatherings is because of the vaccine.

"That thing that has made the biggest difference. That made the pandemic kinda not a pandemic level anymore because of the vaccine," he said.

The bivalent vaccine booster that has been available since August of last year is still available locally as of Friday at the Calhoun County Health Department and the Wal-Mart in Oxford. For those over 65 who have had their bivalent booster, they are eligible for a second booster that is available locally.

"For those who have not had their booster with the bivalent vaccine and they're eligible for that, especially 55 and above, those with diabetes, those with heart problems, talk to a physician or provider about the vaccine," Magadia said.

Long-haul COVID

"We're seeing a lot of patients complaining of fatigue, problem breathing, they don't have COVID, they had COVID maybe a month ago, two months ago, six months ago," Magadia said. He said those patients are suffering from what's known as long-haul COVID or long-COVID.

"We're seeing a lot of that in my practice. I've been talking to my colleagues that have a lot of patients also presenting with symptoms of long-haul COVID," he said.

Magadia cited a study of long-haulCOVID from Scotland that stated, "The World Health Organization (WHO) defined long-COVID as a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection...with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternate diagnosis."

The most common symptoms were fatigue, pain/discomfort, shortness of breath, cognitive impairment and mental health problems.

Magadia said according to the Scottish study the bivalent vaccine helps patients who have long-haul COVID.

Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.

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