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Health experts: If you catch omicron, you could still get long COVID

Although omicron has been dubbed a somewhat milder version of the virus, long COVID is still a risk after infection.

NORFOLK, Va. — Two years into the pandemic, thousands have experienced what’s called "long COVID-19."

"I had weird symptoms. My throat was swelling up, it felt like I had post nasal drip," Meagan Reily told 13News Now in February of last year. "It just went on forever."

RELATED: Norfolk long hauler battles symptoms for months, hopes NIH study brings answers

Four weeks after having the initial strain or Delta variant of the virus, you could develop physical or neurological symptoms.

"Fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, arthralgia, so joint pain, myalgias, which are muscle pains," said Dr. Rebekah Sensenig, an infectious disease specialist with Riverside Health System. "They can have kind of this brain fog."

As for Omicron, Sensenig said it’s too soon to say for sure if we’ll see those same long-term effects. But she says it’s very likely.

"Omicron being mild at this point doesn’t give me any reassurance that we’re not gonna have long haul COVID in the future."

She said the severity of the illness doesn’t determine if you’ll develop those symptoms later on.

"People can have a very mild illness and still go on to develop long haul COVID."

This is yet another reason why trying to catch Omicron just to get it over with is a bad idea.

"Omicron being mild, like the CDC director said yesterday, it’s milder than Delta, but it’s not necessarily a milder disease. Our hospitals are full of very very sick people with Omicron variant COVID," said Sensenig.

She also said it looks like Virginia is on the decline when it comes to COVID-19 cases, but we won’t know for sure until a couple of weeks from now.

As cases start to decline in Virginia and as Dr. Anthony Fauci says the country should reach the peak in mid-February, it’s not all good news.

Sensenig said she is concerned that our plateau of cases will be higher than it was with Delta.

She said that has been in the case in the UK and South Africa when they had extremely high peaks and a steep decline in cases.

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