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Severity of Omicron Surprises Sufferers Who Expected It to Be Mild

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- When Isaac and Sureya Hinojos became sick with COVID-19 last month, it began with mild, flu-like symptoms.

"It started off with a headache, I had a really bad headache day one," Sureya said.

But the couple, like so many who have contracted the omicron variant, were caught off-guard when their symptoms worsened days later and lingered. Sureya said she had a debilitating headache for 10 days.

"Taking a shower was exhausting," she said.

Isaac said that one week after coming down with symptoms, he began to have a hard time breathing. He suffers from adult asthma and turned to his inhaler.

"That was not working at all throughout the whole day. I kept using it and using it," Isaac said. "I ended up telling my wife, 'You know what, we're going to have to go to the ER.'"

A doctor told Isaac that he had inflammation in the lungs from his asthma as well as the coughing brought on by the virus.

The couple admits they brushed off omicron and didn't take it seriously after health experts described the mutation as less severe than the delta variant. They're not the only ones. Many across the country likened the omicron variant to the cold or flu.

The Hinojos said they were caught off-guard by their lasting symptoms. Both are fully vaccinated.

"It's not just a cold," Isaac said. "How can I get back to work and perform my job if I can't even breathe right now?"

Stanford Medical Center epidemiologist Dr. Jorge Salinas said COVID-19 is far from a cold or flu.

"Your experience may be milder because you are vaccinated," Dr. Salinas said. "Omicron is equally severe to the original COVID. COVID is not a cold, COVID is not influenza, COVID is COVID and is more serious than influenza."

He's now concerned about those who became infected with COVID during this latest surge and whether thousands will live with "long COVID" after this surge.

"A large proportion of people continue having symptoms -- long COVID -- cough, shortness of breath," Dr. Salinas explained. "Some people develop brain fog. It's hard for them to think. Some people develop chest pains, develop cough. Every day we diagnose new people, we hospitalize new people."

California's test-positivity has continued a downward trend since reaching a record high recently. But deaths remain the highest they've been in eight weeks at an average of 98 per day.

"You shouldn't be taking it lightly. It hits everyone differently," Sureya said. "We shouldn't feel like we're in the clear."

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