The Vaccine Blog

Is COVID still dangerous? How do we protect against it?

Is COVID  still dangerous? How do we protect against it?


Disclaimer: Please note I am not a medical professional and am not an authority on the issue, this is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice. For accurate scientific information about vaccines, please visit the WHO and CDC websites.

These are clearly still concerning questions for  people across the world. 5 years into the pandemic, coronavirus stats remain worrying. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, there were 1.1 million new coronavirus cases between 11th December 2023 and 7th January 2024 with the number of deaths increasing by 26% relative to the previous month. Further, during the same period, coronavirus hospitalisations and admissions to ICU  increased by 40% and 13% respectively.  This isn't all. The CDC estimates that coronavirus infections are  “growing or likely growing in 2 states and territories, declining or likely declining in 29 states and territories, and are stable or uncertain in 19 states and territories.” 


This consistent circulation of coronavirus within the human population has led to the emergence of new variants; the newest of which is the JN.1 variant derived from BA.2.86. According to a paper published by Ibraheem Altamimi and colleagues in January 2024, the JN.1 variant contains a mutation on its spike protein which is critical for its ability to establish an infection in human cells. Further, the study demonstrated that this coronavirus variant can avoid the immune system to a greater extent than previous variants. Added to this is the fact that it has a higher reproductive number than previous variants. That means that every individual infected with JN.1 will, on average, spread it to more people than if they were infected with previous variants. Interestingly, despite this, there is no increase in disease severity with the new variant. However, this does not negate the need for monitoring and vigilance with JN.1 and future variants. 


So, the answer to the first question in the title remains clear.


Unequivocally YES


Yes, it remains dangerous to contract coronavirus, or even to knowingly or unknowingly increase your risk of contracting it.


Coronavirus symptoms


So a concerned individual might ask themselves or others; what are the symptoms of COVID? How long do COVID symptoms last? What's important to know is that symptoms of any disease can be dynamic and vary with person, time, place, treatments, genetics and many other factors. No two people  experience the same disease in exactly the same way, either physically or psychologically. Further, the source of symptoms varies. A 2021 modelling study estimated that 59% of transmission is caused by asymptomatic individuals (those that are infected but display no symptoms), 35% from presymptomatic transmission, and finally 24% from those who never develop symptoms..


According to the website of the CDC, the start of COVID may include or “feel like” fever or chills, coughing, fatigue, shortness or breath, body aches, a new loss of taste and/or smell, headache, among others.. They note that this is not a comprehensive list of symptoms


Sets of symptoms may change with new variants. With that, it's worth asking if that is the case. What are the symptoms of the newest COVID variant, JN.1, if any? 

The CDC states that it is not currently clear if JN.1 produces symptoms that differ from previous variants, and that symptoms generally tend to be similar across variants. In any case, symptoms and their severity depend more on health status and immunity rather than the infecting variant. In terms of how long COVID symptoms last, they generally begin just under a week following infection and last anywhere from 1 day up to 2 weeks. 


Many people, once they realise they are infected will be concerned with how long COVID 19 is contagious. It varies with symptoms severity, but according to the CDC website “People who are infected but asymptomatic or people with mild COVID-19 should isolate through at least day 5 (day 0 is the day symptoms appeared or the date the specimen was collected for the positive test for people who are asymptomatic). They should wear a mask through day 10. A test-based strategy may be used to remove a mask sooner.People with moderate  or severe COVID-19 should isolate through at least day 10. Those with severe COVID-19 may remain infectious beyond 10 days and may need to extend isolation for up to 20 days.People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should isolate through at least day 20. Use of serial testing and consultation with an infectious disease specialist is recommended in these patients prior to ending isolation.” According to the World Health Organisation, anyone can become infected, severely ill and die from COVID 19 

Further, if you`ve been on the Internet at all recently, you`ll no doubt have heard that long term symptoms can be associated with coronavirus infection, or “Long COVID.” It is a complicated syndrome with an array of diverse symptoms that can affect multiple organ systems. Symptoms of Long COVID may include breathlessness, muscle aches and fatigue, among others. According to a 2022 paper published by Ho Cheng Koc and colleagues, in the UK population, fatigue is most prevalent among long COVID patients (51%), followed by difficulty breathing (35%), joint stiffness (25%), and concentration difficulties (25%). Other symptoms reported include arrhythmias, heart palpitations, low blood pressure, increased heart rate and even acute heart failure. It also has a neuropsychiatric dimension, including cognitive impairment, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Now, it's not unusual for viruses to persist long-term in the infected individual. Many pathogens do. Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) can exist latently for decades after initial infection and cause lesions that may evolve into cervical cancer among other types of cancers. HIV, once one is infected, is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured; the symptoms can only be managed. Infection with herpes viruses is similar. So to reiterate, it is not at all unusual for viruses to persist for the long-term in hosts. What`s distinctive about  Long COVID is that it takes so long for recovery. With that, how long is long COVID, exactly? The duration of long COVID symptoms varies, however the timeframe ranges from several months to up to years - even in those who were originally asymptomatic. The long-term impact on the patient's quality of life makes this a serious condition worth discussing.


For many people, the next logical question is; how can I treat Long COVID if at all? Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organisation, “because long COVID is a new condition, doctors have often been uncertain as to the most effective ways to care for these patients. With over 200 reported symptoms, a one-size-fits-all treatment plan simply does not work.” With that said, the World Health Organization does advise that the majority of people do recover without treatment. 

How can you prevent getting coronavirus?


The best way of avoiding the unpleasant symptoms, the risk of Long COVID, and transmitting the infection to others is, obviously, to not become infected in the first place.Given the overarching theme of my blog, you`ll know that the first measure I`m going to suggest is getting the coronavirus vaccine and booster! However, this is only part of a framework of measures. Masking in particularly crowded areas, testing on a regular basis, distancing, and ventilated air are also ways to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection to the highest extent possible. 


Treatment of COVID 19


However, if you are one of the 700 million people who have already contracted it, how do you treat COVID 19? In the majority of cases people recover within several weeks without medical intervention. For more severe cases, the World Health Organisation recommends several treatments. These include corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, monoclonal antibody therapy which blocks the viruses ability to latch onto and infect our cells, and finally interleukin-6 receptor blockers which reduce the overstimulation of the immune system. For example, a 2023 study by Dr. Ahmad Mourad and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of dexamethasone in hospitalised COVID 19 patients. The authors found that “dexamethasone use is associated with improved mortality or discharge to hospice among patients requiring supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation and/or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.” Further, the CDC also recommends that they “ should all be given along with current standard care for COVID-19, including oxygen and supportive care.”


What should I do if I have COVID 19?


I've already spoken about the treatments. However, the emotional burden that comes with having any new disease should not be underestimated. In fact, I`d argue it should be discussed right alongside physical symptoms - especially in a world where a growing list of pathogens constantly pose a pandemic risk. With that, it's worth discussing how to approach the circumstances of having COVID 19, or any disease that is new or otherwise concerning. It's relatively easy to say that if you have concerns, naturally, talk to your doctor. It can be difficult, granted, to do so when the stress of what will happen in work, family responsibilities and a million other things weighs on one's mind. However, the sooner one addresses the symptoms, the quicker and more efficiently one can recover from them. I`ll also add that as concerning as a positive COVID test may be, especially if it is one`s first time contracting COVID, acting on it immediately will make it much easier to address subsequent medical issues. Also, developing a rapport and trust with one`s physician can make visiting them a much less difficult experience than if you hadn't taken the time to form such a relationship. It's also important to realise that developing communication and relationship - building skills can help you form a rapport with many physicians and healthcare professionals. This can make it easier to adapt to any medical environment, no matter how difficult your diagnosis may be.


This may seem slightly out of place in an article about coronavirus symptoms and treatments. However, maintaining good physician-patient relationships is crucial for reducing risks to health. The reason for this is that when a patient is ill, they may be feeling quite vulnerable. Having a healthcare provider they genuinely trust will make it much more likely that they will seek the treatment they need. This is especially true in such a new situation as a global pandemic of coronavirus,  a disease the majority of people will not have experienced before. Having such a strong base of trust established also means that if future pandemics or public health emergencies arise, patients will be more likely to accept guidance to reduce health risks. 


Further, in the case of diseases that can be chronic such as Long COVID the importance of patient - provider trust is elevated. Long COVID research is still in its early days, and has no standard treatment defined yet. For this reason, patient testimonials of their symptoms are a crucial tool for both diagnosis and treatment. This is true for any new or under-researched condition. Some patients may suffer from chronic conditions for a long time. Others may suffer from multiple chronic conditions. Every patient's journey is unique. Navigating the uncertainty that comes with that diversity means that the patient trusts the provider and their medical judgement, first of all. It also requires that the provider incorporates the patient's self described symptoms into such medical judgements.


 For example, pregnant women were not included in coronavirus vaccination clinical trials, understandably to reduce the risk of harm to both mother and foetus. However, this left clinicians without a strong knowledge base on how to advise pregnant women about coronavirus vaccines. This, I think, is a good example of where good patient-provider relationships would be invaluable.  In the case of advising pregnant women about COVID 19 vaccinations, the physician would need to use their best medical judgement, with the patient trusting that. I`ll also point out that a pregnant woman`s health status can vary throughout the pregnancy, and COVID 19 was (and still is) an evolving situation. For these reasons,  it is not simply learning how to build trust that is crucial. Maintaining it is also key. The key point is that every discussion should be based in respect and empathy between the physician and patient. 



In sum, to answer the question; is COVID still dangerous in 2024? Yes, absolutely it can be and coronavirus stats reflect that. With that said, the majority of people do recover within several weeks without major medical interventions. What are the symptoms of coronavirus? They include ” fever or chills, coughing, fatigue, shortness or breath, body aches, a new loss of taste and/or smell, headache, among others. That said, this is not a comprehensive list of symptoms. However, in more severe cases, symptoms may persist for weeks, months or even years following infection. This is known as “post-COVID syndrome”, “post COVID conditions” or more colloquially as “Long COVID.”  This presents a diverse set of symptoms that may affect multiple organ systems. With the novelty of the virus and the inevitable uncertainty that comes with that, many people experience fear and anxiety about consulting a healthcare professional about it. However, establishing trust and a good relationship is an invaluable and often neglected aspect of disease management. Having a physician they trust at a time when they're much more vulnerable than usual makes it far more likely that patients will seek the coronavirus vaccine, and the treatment they need. I briefly discussed the example of pregnant women not being included in coronavirus vaccination clinical trials, and how that posed challenges for clinicians in making medical judgements. However, placing the patient as a key stakeholder in their own medical decision-making and ensuring all discussions are based in empathy between the physician and patient can lead to better outcomes for all involved. Thanks for reading!


For access to other insightful articles and other benefits; do consider becoming a paying subscriber on substack 




  1. COVID-19 epidemiological update – 19 January 2024
  2. Current Epidemic Growth Status (Based on Rt) for States and Territories
  4. Navigating Novel Uncertainties of COVID-19: The Rise of the JN.1 Variant - PMC
  5. Initial Risk Evaluation of BA.2.86 and its sublineages, 21 November 2023
  6. SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From People Without COVID-19 Symptoms - PMC
  7. Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC
  8. Update on SARS-CoV-2 Variant JN.1 Being Tracked by CDC
  9. Home Ending Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19: Interim Guidance
  10. Preventing Persistence of HPV Infection with Natural Molecules - PMC
  11. About HIV/AIDS | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC
  12. Herpes - STI Treatment Guidelines
  13. Long COVID and its Management - PMC
  14. Long Covid: Untangling the Complex Syndrome and the Search for Therapeutics - PMC
  15. Possible Pathogenesis and Prevention of Long COVID: SARS-CoV-2-Induced Mitochondrial Disorder - PMC
  16. Neuropsychiatric aspects of long COVID: A comprehensive review - PMC
  17. WHO COVID-19 Dashboard
  18. COVID-19 Treatments.
  19. Dexamethasone for Inpatients With COVID-19 in a National Cohort - PMC
  20. What is the best way to treat post COVID-19 condition (long COVID)? Researchers in Belgium are trying to develop the answer
  21. Vaccine Protection Through Placenta and Breastfeeding: The Unmet Topic in COVID-19 Pandemic - PMC