A second year to pandemic?
Hello guys! Hope you are safe and masked. So, it's time to get back on preventive mode as history seems to repeat itself. It's been 2 years fighting over novel coronavirus. 2020 and 2021 were filled with uncertainty, fear and loss. These two heavy years showed many grey colors to the world. And the worrisome part is fighting against the invisible continues. Fresh new year is here and celebrating it with our loved ones is prohibited to make it a safe and happy year. Masks, Sanitizers, encountering spooky looks on sneezing is popular now.
A very Happy and Safe New Year 2022 to everyone. I wish we would have celebrated it like a bomb just like new year celebrations were done back in the 2019s and 18s. But unfortunately 3rd scary and unwanted guest is here to ruin our third year too i.e OMICRON(B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern.
The novel coronavirus infection COVID-19 emerged from China back in 2019. In 2020 it erupted out like a volcano in whole world creating a situation of global health emergency. It was an unusual fight against the unknown and invisible. A terrifying situation that led to the loss of millions of lives. We were in the phase of recuperating from the first wave, a more lethal, pathogenic and transmissible 2nd wave of pandemic struck us in 2021 claiming more lives and losses.
The last 3-4 months of 2021 saw a huge decline next to extinction in the number of covid-19 cases, giving us the hope of the coronavirus free world.
But the nature recommenced with her revenge. Infection started to advance again in November 2021 with a highly mutated version of covid-19 i.e OMICRON. And now 3rd wave of pandemic is here with the surge in OMICRON cases globally.
Omicron : Variant Of Concern(VOCs)
The first case of Omicron was reported in South Africa on 24th November 2021. After 2 days of evaluation and monitoring of B.1.1.529 variant by the TAG-VE group of experts, it was declared as a variant of concern (VOC) by WHO on 26th November 2021. 2 days was the least time taken by WHO to declare B.1.1.529 variant a variant of concern (VOC) amongst all variants of COVID-19 to date. The latest hike in covid-19 cases in South Africa was predominantly due to omicron first detected from a specimen taken on 9th November 2021.
The B.1.1.529 shows the great number of mutations, many among them are concerning. As compared to other VOCs omicron has a higher rate of transmissibility. During the first wave of Beta variant in South Africa, the infection was increased by approximately 50% in the first 100 days, in the second wave of Delta variant, infection increased by approximately 80% in the same time window. But in the case of omicron, the infection increased by approximately 90% in only 25 days time period. This data clearly brings out the conclusion that omicron has the fastest rate of transmission compared to other VOCs.
Severity of Disease, Chances of Reinfection and Effectiveness of Vaccine in Case of Omicron
The severity of the disease is low compared to the Delta variant i.e chances of hospitalization is seen less in the case of omicron. But the chances of getting infected is extremely high. Nothing can be said with full guaranty as deaths are also occurring due to omicron. Taking this variant seriously and not considering it mild will only be beneficial for you.
Chances of reinfection are high i.e people who were previously infected by covid-19 have more chances of getting reinfected with omicron.
Talking about the vaccine administered, it is effective in controlling the severity of disease and lowering the chances of death. However, experts also say that Infection caused by this variant can surpass the level of immunity provided by previous infection and vaccine administered. Individuals who received the double dose and booster jab also have the full possibility of getting infected. So, all the guidelines need to be followed religiously.
Studies are being done on the new variant of concern. Every day something new related to the same is unveiled. So, nothing can be said with utmost surety. Preventive guidelines provided by the experts is the only key to preventing infection from covid-19 and its variants.
On getting infected, early diagnosis is necessary to prevent the disease from advancing. Self-isolation on being tested positive at an early stage helps in containing the further spread of the virus. Every individual should be well informed about the symptoms associated with omicron infection, so on encountering such symptoms person may immediately undergo covid testing.
This time symptoms of omicron infection are different from that of the Delta variant of a second fatal wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Symptoms of Delta and Omicron. What’s the difference?
Delta and Omicron both are mutated variants of covid-19. Delta variant was first originated in India back in 2020 leading to a second life-threatening wave of pandemic causing exceedingly loss of lives and health/mental health. And as discussed above, omicron was first identified in South Africa in November 2021.
The symptoms are different in both cases. Major common symptoms in case of omicron infection as demonstrated by experts are:
- Joint pain
Two more symptoms are recently added in Zoe covid study app. That is:
-Loss of appetite
Loss of smell and taste, which was the common symptom in the case of the Delta variant is not observed in the case of omicron.
Experts believe symptoms of the omicron variant are mild. The variant multiplies in the throat, unlike the Delta variant that targeted lungs for the multiplication. So, the chances of hospitalization, pneumonia and death are lower in the case of the omicron variant. But still, studies are going in full swing so things must not be overlooked.
Strategies to prevent omicron infection
- Containing the spread of variant: At present all characteristics of the variant are ambiguous. As the variant spread easily so all the preventive health measures should be followed.
- Proper wearing of N95 masks especially in crowded places. Nose and chin should be properly covered with mask. Double masking will keep you more safe. Avoid normal fabric masks as it has a lower tendency of filtering out germs.
- Following social distancing while stepping out of the home.
- Proper ventilation should be ensured at home and workplaces.
- Washing hands timely.
- Carry sanitizers and extra masks in your bag. Use sanitizers timely while travelling especially after touching any objects.
- Remember after 3-4 use of Hand Rub Sanitizers, wash hands with proper disinfected Hand wash as after multiple uses of hand rub, alcohol in them gets layered on hands. Thus 5th application of Hand Rub becomes less effective in killing germs.
2. Early diagnosis and timely isolation are also very important to contain the spread of variants.
3. Enhancing Covid-19 vaccine coverage: it is clear that vaccine has proved helpful in lowering down the severity of disease and hence chances of hospitalization and Death. So getting yourself vaccinated is very important and useful for the protection against the covid-19 and its variants.
4. Go for booster Dose: In several studies, it is found that antibodies level decline 6 months post-vaccination. So check for your eligibility for booster jab. Talk to your doctor. If all OK then go for a booster dose to restore antibody level and improve its effectiveness against covid infection.
5. Development variant-specific vaccine: It is clear that the Covid-19 vaccine is not fully effective against the omicron variant. A vaccinated individual is easily getting infected with omicron, however severity level of infection is low due to vaccination. So, vaccines specific to all covid-19 variants should be developed as nothing is impossible with science.
6. Boost immunity beat omicron: last but most important is following healthy diet and routine to have strong immunity against all covid-19 variants. Eating healthy, proper exercise, good clean and sleep routine are the prime strategies to kick off omicron.
With the emergence of the omicron variant, it is clear that it is not the last mutated variant of covid-19. Many more mutated variants may come. And with this time to time occurrence of mutated variants of covid-19, gaining control over coronavirus has become more arduous. But fortunately with 2 years of time we have gathered enormous information regarding the virus. And undoubtedly we will win the war against coronavirus in future, but until then stay protected, vaccinated, preventive and masked.
© 2022 Atiya Hilal