This article seeks to dissect the intricate morphology of coronaviruses, particularly noting the characteristic spikes that give the virus its name, appearing akin to a crown – or ‘corona’ in Latin – under an electron microscope.
The piece focuses mainly on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for the outbreak of respiratory illness first recognized in Wuhan, China, in 2019 and widely known as COVID-19.
The article reports a minor but significant increase in COVID-19 cases at various local hospitals mirroring the rising heat waves and the commencement of the school season. The University of Chicago Medical Center is one such institution experiencing higher positivity rates – the proportion of COVID-19 tests returning positive results – since the onset of August.
As detailed by the hospital’s executive medical director for infection prevention and control, Emily Landon, the quantity of COVID-19 cases has doubled within the past fortnight. Landon reports an across-the-board increase in cases among the community, the hospital, healthcare workers, and patients.
Dr. Jonathan Martin, an infectious disease physician at Provident Hospital, concurs with this rising trend across the county’s public health system. He points out an alarming growth in the positivity rate, leaping from 1.5% a month ago to 6.5% last week. Landon lends further context, stating that cases remained stable and low over the summer, with a surge beginning at July’s end. She attributes this partially to the hotter weather, leading to a lack of fresh air mixing indoors, creating an environment conducive for COVID-19 spread.
The issue also lies in waning immunity as vaccine boosters start to lose their efficacy. Tragically, only a mere 23.7% of Chicagoans have received the latest booster dose, allowing the virus more room for spread.
Despite the absence of data collection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, local health departments continue to monitor virus levels through various measures.
Unfortunately, data suggests a rising positivity rate, increased hospitalizations, and augmented levels of COVID-19 in wastewater.
As for symptoms, they remain largely consistent with previous manifestations, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, and sore throat. Patients who are immunocompromised or carries existing health conditions may exhibit symptoms of pneumonia.
The EG.5 variant currently dominates local COVID-19 cases, with emerging variants like EG.5, FL.1.5.1, BA2.86, and new XBB strains raising further concerns.
To combat rising infection rates, preventative measures like quick testing and engaging the services of primary care physicians are recommended, alongside vaccination efforts. As the disease transitions mostly into an outpatient issue, healthcare professionals recommend getting boosters now for at-risk individuals or those planning to travel, with a new booster planned for release in mid-September.