Symptoms of the new omicron COVID-19 variant
The fourth wave of COVID-19 has threatened to hit South Africa for a few months now. Last week, the new variant in South Africa called Omicron was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The media labelled Omicron as the ‘South African variant’, but according to CBS News, Dutch health authorities found that the variant was spreading in Western Europe before identifying it in South Africa.
WHO named the variant B.1.1.529 because of the several mutations that can impact its behaviour. Dozens of countries have put travelling restrictions on Southern African nations.
In the coming months, healthcare experts will be doing studies on the distribution of Omicron. The questions on everybody’s mind is what does the variant mean, what are its symptoms, and how can contraction be prevented?
The severity of the disease
It is unclear whether Omicron can cause more severe diseases than the infections from the other variants, such as Delta. Delta is a virulent strain of the virus and has dominated globally.
There has been an increase in hospitalisation rates in South Africa. Still, it may be because of the overall boost in infected people rather than people specifically being infected with Omicron.
Financial express reports; as the omicron variant sweeps through the country, Dr Unben Pillay treats dozens of sick patients every day. However, he hasn’t sent anyone to the hospital – there’s just no need to. That’s one of the reasons why he suspects that the omicron version is causing milder COVID-19 than Delta, even though it is spreading faster. He says that other doctors agree. “(Patients) can manage the disease at home,” Pillay says.” Most have recovered within the 10 to 14-day isolation period,” Pillay continues. He said this includes older patients and those with health problems that can make them more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from a coronavirus infection.
What are the symptoms?
The variants of COVID-19 are known to cause severe disease or death. Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African Medical Association chair, was the first South African doctor to raise concerns about the new strain. She described the symptoms as ‘mild’.
In November this year, she started noticing ‘unusual symptoms’ in COVID patients that slightly differed from symptoms associated with the Delta variant.
WHO said that no information suggests that symptoms linked to Omicron aren’t different from the other strains. Another report from Bloomberg analysed that patients suffered from fatigue, head and body aches, loss of taste or smell, and occasional sore throats and coughing. It is too early to tell if Omicron symptoms will be completely different to the symptoms of Delta.
In South Africa, most people infected with Omicron have been young. They have been admitted with more severe symptoms, but many of them are either unvaccinated or had only one dose of the vaccine.
Healthcare officials have suggested that two doses of the vaccine and a booster dose may help to protect you from Omicron and the other variants. WHO works with its partners to understand the potential impact of Omicron and its reaction to countermeasures such as vaccinations.
Vaccines prove to be the most effective to reduce severe diseases and death.
What action can South Africa take against the new strain?
According to WHO, South Africa and other countries should enhance surveillance and sequencing of their cases. This action and genome sequences can be shared on public databases, and initial cases or clusters must be reported to the organisation.
South can perform field investigations and laboratory assessments. It will help understand Omicron better and whether it has different transmission or disease characteristics.
How can you help?
As repetitive as this may be, the spread of the COVID-19 can be reduced by practising social distancing and wearing a mask in public spaces, opening windows to improve ventilation and avoiding crowded areas or gatherings.
Sanitise your hands as often as possible. Cough or sneeze into your bent elbow or tissue.
Vaccinations may not be mandatory now, but they can save your life and the lives of others around you. The government has confirmed that there is no microchip, 5G or demonic entity in the vaccine (as many conspiracy theories suggest), and it is safe to do.
Stay abreast of the Omicron variant. The more you know about it, the more you will learn to protect yourself and your loved ones.
One thing is for sure – finding out more about the new strain and its potential impact is a significant priority for the government and health officials.
If new restrictions and lockdowns are introduced, it is in your best interest to follow the instructions to counteract Omicron.
Before making any huge dietary, exercise or health-related decisions, the best thing to do is to speak to a medical professional. This can get costly, but that is why Affinity Health is here to make healthcare and advice accessible and affordable.
Affinity Health offers either a day-to-day plan, a hospital plan, or a combination of both – and even a few booster options.
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