Apr 13, 2021 News
– as fears of more infectious COVID variants surface
Kaieteur News – Instead of subsiding, it would seem that COVID-19 has not only been increasing but steadily mutating, with scientists, quite often, deriving new theories about it.Here in Guyana, health care professionals have noted changes that suggest that a mutated variant has been inflicting our people in recent months, and they are understandably worried.Commenting on this state of affairs in his most recent column in this newspaper, Emergency Medicine Specialist, Dr. Zulfikar Bux, noted that scientists have found that new variants from Brazil, the United Kingdom and South Africa can be up to two times easier to catch than the previous circulating strains.
This has caused the doctor to urge members of the public to redouble their mask-wearing efforts.
He cautioned that, “The virus can still get into your body if you are wearing a mask and exposing your nostrils or if your mask is loose fitting.” As such he warned, “Ensure your mask is tight-fitting and your nose and mouth are properly covered.”
Some experts, Dr. Bux said, have even recommended that “a close-fitting cloth mask be placed over the regular masks that are being worn for a tighter fit and increased protection. Any space you leave around your mask is potential space for the virus to get in or for it to escape in the event that you are infected.”
Guyana has been recording, on average, 100 new cases per day with deaths almost daily. The local death toll, up to press time yesterday, was 257.
“One would have to be silly to not assume that this wave of infections and deaths is not from a newer and more deadly form of the virus,” Dr. Bux has noted.
According to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which has been providing Caricom Member States with testing services for new variants, to date it has detected cases of the UK variant in several Member States.
Without naming these Member States, CARPHA, in an April 8, 2021 update noted that “while no case of the Brazil or South African variant have been detected in the Region, US variants of concern and a variant similar to the Brazil variant have been detected.”
Moreover, it has urged that Member States “remain vigilant and continue to enhance their surveillance capacity to screen, identify, test, quarantine, isolate and trace contacts of new cases supported by public health prevention and control measures.”
Guyana is among the Member States currently utilising the services of CARPHA which has, since December 2020, been working with the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, on genome sequencing. Genomic sequencing is a process in which the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient is analysed and compared with other cases. Countries, CARPHA said, have been requested to send an allocation of 10 samples per month which meet the requirements for sequencing. CARPHA, in its update, noted that “during this critical phase of the pandemic and beyond,” it will continue to provide technical support, advice and the highest quality service to help inform decision makers in its Member States.
In recent months Guyana has seen more cases and deaths related to COVID-19 than any other period. In light of this daunting development, Dr. Bux stressed the need “to tighten on previous practices if we are to avoid becoming infected from these deadlier strains of the virus.”
He has therefore advised that persons would be less likely to become infected if they avoid outbreak Regions, as far as possible, as well as hospitals and environments, including enclosed spaces, where there are many people. “The more persons you expose yourself to, the higher the chances of you being exposed to an infected individual. If you choose to interact with others in enclosed spaces, then your risk of acquiring an infection is higher,” according to Dr. Bux.
“When you are inside, there is no free flow of air and potential viruses will re-circulate instead of being dispersed. Your chances of breathing in the virus will therefore be higher when compared to being outside, where virus particles are quickly dispersed by free-flowing air,” he explained.
The virus, he further noted, can only spread when persons are close enough for it to be transmitted. As such he posited, “The further you are away from others, then the less likely you will be infected. Avoiding crowded places, especially in environments where there is irresponsible behaviour, is therefore key in decreasing one’s risk of becoming infected.”
Places where there are celebrations such as parties, weddings, hangouts, etc., pose higher risks for the spread of infections and therefore should be avoided, Dr. Bux asserted. “So, anytime you see a gathering of people,” he said, “avoid it if you can and you may be avoiding the virus at the same time.”
Noting that it is best to assume that everyone is infected, until proven otherwise, Dr. Bux’s advice to the public is “when you are out and about, be mindful of this fact and limit how long you expose yourself to others…every second counts especially when you are in a high-risk environment.”
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