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COVID in your household: The 6 ways I avoided infection at home.

Recently my kids brought COVID-19 home from school. We had managed to avoid it for two and a half years through a series of mitigations and an added dose of luck.

Why luck? Well, despite having a highly vaccinated population in Australia, we are still seeing rampant transmission. 

This is because of the immune escape of the current dominant variants, meaning we all are probably exposed to the virus regularly if we are going about our business as usual. 

Watch: New data from Australia's longest-running post-COVID clinic has revealed a high proportion of patients are women in their 40s and 50. Post continues after video.


Video via ABC News.

On top of that, another integral measure needed to avoid COVID-19 infection is privilege.

Privilege alongside luck goes a long way to reduce the risk of infection. Privilege is something I am a beneficiary of, and I feel needs full disclosure when discussing ways to mitigate COVID-19 infection risk.

So luck and privilege. Two things millions of Australians have come up short on, through no individual fault of their own. 

When my kids tested positive for COVID-19, we implemented a number of measures to keep the rest of the family infection-free.

You might be wondering... why go to this length to avoid a virus that we are told is 'mild' and unavoidable? Well, it's fairly straightforward. Reinfection can occur in as little as 28 days with the currently circulating Omicron strains BA.4/5, and each infection brings with it the risk of long COVID

Conservatively, five per cent of infections, even in those up to date with their vaccinations, will have some lingering symptom at three months post infection, and many of these people at six months post infection will fit the criteria for a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (MECFS). 

I went to the lengths I will describe to avoid infection because I am at high risk for more severe illness. I already live with MECFS and a host of other chronic conditions, meaning my chances of developing long COVID are high. Much higher than the population rate of five per cent, and even without developing long COVID, it is likely my neurological symptoms from a compressed brain stem will worsen, possibly irreversibly so. There is just too much unknown for me to let my guard down. 

Listen: The Quicky speaks to an expert epidemiologist to find out what exactly long COVID is. Post continues below.

There are also reports of people experiencing reactivations of shingles and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) post COVID-19 - something I periodically experience myself already. I had a reactivation of EBV, the virus which inevitably led to my MECFS in March which saw me floored for a solid six weeks. 

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There are many thousands of people like me, who really just cannot risk being left worse off post COVID-19 infection. Unfortunately, as we now know, COVID-19 is not a 'one and done' virus - you can be infected again and again.  

I also know that going to these lengths is not possible for many either, or simply not something they want to do. It is an extremely restrictive life still trying desperately to avoid infection, but with the long-term health impacts still largely unknown and the risk of long COVID with each new infection, I am here to say, attempts to avoid infection or reinfection are not done in vain. Not everyone wants to, and that is okay, but for many, there is still no viable alternative. 

So what steps can you take to avoid household transmission once COVID-19 is in your home? 

Here are the strategies we implemented:

1. I had a treatment plan in place for myself. 

If you are high risk or believe you may be so, put a plan in place with your GP. If eligible, find out how you will access antivirals in a timely manner once that positive test for yourself comes in. This is important as these medications need to be started within five days of symptom onset. 

2. I wore precautionary masks at home. 

When my kids or husband have had lots of known exposures, I wear a quality mask (I was doing this in the days before my son tested positive). If you miss the precautionary masks before the first person tests positive, masking up in a quality mask once someone in the home returns a positive test can still go a long way to reducing the risk of transmission.

Ideally aim for the best mask you can afford. N95/P2 is better than KN95, which is better than a surgical mask, which is better than a cloth mask. 

3. Ensure you are up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.

Ensure you are up-to-date with the primary three-dose series and a booster dose, depending on your individual circumstances. I was quadruple vaccinated when we had COVID-19 come to stay.

4. Ventilation is one of the big ticket mitigations anyone can implement.

HEPA air filtration is one of those expensive items not everyone has access to (I did), but it is very effective. Alternatively, if you don't have access to HEPA air filtration, increasing natural ventilation is equally effective. Open as many windows as possible, leaving bathroom exhaust fans on as well.

5. 'Hot' rooms. 

'Hot' rooms are where the positive people spend awake hours. You can also designate a separate bathroom for only those positive to use. (We could do this but I recognise this is a privilege not afforded to all).

6. Testing. 

My husband and I tested twice daily on rapid antigen tests. However, these are costly, meaning RATs are inaccessible for many. 

There is much our government could be doing to increase access to these many measures, and I hope in time they will. 

But when it comes down to it, just do what you can. Every little measue helps.

Janna is a 37-year-old mother of two residing in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs with her young family. She lives with the chronic illness and rare disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Janna is also a pharmacist, medical writer and chronic illness patient advocate. You can follow Janna on Instagram @ The.Rare.Writer.

Feature Image: Getty.