Omicron may be seen as a milder Covid-19 strain as compared to Delta, but experts are quick to point out that it is a highly-contagious variant, and should not be taken lightly. This comes in the wake of India witnessing the single highest day spike in cases after April-May 2020 during the second wave, driven by the Delta variant. Experts raise concern that the laxity is visible as many doubly jabbed people have been affected by Omicron, that was first detected in South Africa in November 2021.
While Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination still hold the key, doctors advise avoiding self-medication, and following protocols of isolation and quarantine to reduce contributing to the numbers.
“Coronavirus has an adverse effect on the lungs, and leads to difficulty in breathing. But, in the third wave, most patients showing regular symptoms like cold, fever, sore throat, headache, and vomiting, are also testing positive for Covid,” said Dr Sanjiv Dang, ENT specialist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Karol Bagh, Delhi in a press release.
He added that “a majority of people do not get themselves tested because of the fear of getting diagnosed with Covid, and instead opt for home remedies or self-medicate”. “Taking any medication without the doctor’s knowledge can be risky and invite unwanted complications. Your respiratory system is very delicate. Throat infections can have serious consequences if they spread to the lungs. Therefore, it is important to take special care of the respiratory system during the third wave of Covid,” said Dr Dang.
However, not all cases of cold, cough, and throat ache or headache are related to Covid, he asserted, adding that seasonal illnesses are on the rise too.
“However, if these symptoms persist for more than a few days consecutively, then do an RT-PCR test and quarantine yourself for seven days to curb the virus’ spread,” Dr Dang added.
The more the infection spreads, the more chances it has of mutations, said Dr Shuchin Bajaj, founder director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals. “So, we should be very cautious because the more it multiplies the more are the chances of errors creeping into the RNA which increases the chances of mutations that can lead to a more severe variant again,” Dr Bajaj warned, adding that “long-term effects of Covid-19 and its variants are still unknown which warrants additional precautions”.
Without secondary thoughts, Covid-appropriate behaviour is the need of the hour, stress experts. Dr Arunesh Kumar, HOD and senior consultant- Pulmonology, Paras Hospital Gurgaon said, “Wearing a mask will help you regardless of any variant you are confronting. Many people who are being tested positive are the ones who do not follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Second step is vaccination. Both the doses are important and play a vital role in fighting Covid. If you’re fully vaccinated, you may get the new virus infection but the chances of you getting seriously ill are very less. So be fully vaccinated and if you’re eligible for a precautionary dose, go for it as well.”
Covid-appropriate behaviour translates into wearing N95 masks when stepping out, practicing social distancing consistently, and controlling our interactions even during festivities like Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Bihu and Pongal, said Raghavendra Goud Vaggu, general manager, Cytiva South Asia.
Agreed Dr Sonam Solanki, consultant pulmonologist and bronchoscopist, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai and said how it is important to not let the guard down. “Since most people are getting well on their own with a week of isolation, resting, tests and basic medication, it is easy to take it lightly. But logistics of the pandemic still hold true. If a lot of us fall ill at the same time, it will increase the burden on the healthcare system. So even though it is mild symptoms, we must prevent it as much as we can as per the routine protocol so that not a lot of us will get unwell at the same time,” Dr Solanki said.
Explaining the math, Dr Bajaj said, “So if even two per cent of us are getting the infection, it is being projected that it would be approximately 10 lakh cases per day in India. So, then two per cent of that would translate to 20,000 people getting into a hospital every day, which is a huge number, and we don’t have that kind of beds.”
The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, notified that so far, only 50 per cent of the global population is fully vaccinated, nine per cent partially vaccinated, while 41 per cent is still unvaccinated against the virus.
“We must speed up our efforts to expand production, remove trade barriers, and share doses to vaccinate 70 per cent of populations in all countries by mid-2022,” he stated on Twitter.
We must speed up our efforts to expand production, remove trade barriers, and share doses to vaccinate 70% of populations in ALL countries by mid-2022. #VaccinEquity will save countless lives. https://t.co/SKbrPLWsxx
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) January 12, 2022
According to WHO,
To make your environment as safe as possible:
*Avoid the 3Cs: spaces that are closed, crowded or involve close contact.
*If you can’t avoid crowded or indoor settings, take these precautions:
-Open a window to increase the amount of natural ventilation when indoors.
-Wear a mask
Ensure good hygiene
*Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. This eliminates germs that may be on your hands, including viruses.
*Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately into a closed bin and wash your hands.
*Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially those which are regularly touched, such as door handles, faucets and phone screens.