Jan 01, 2022 News
By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Emergency Medicine Specialist
Kaieteur News – The Omicron variant is now dominating infections worldwide and it’s only a matter of time before it does the same here. This variant of the Coronavirus (SARS COV-2) is the most efficient form yet. Data so far is suggesting that it spreads four times faster than the original variant and two times faster than the delta variant which was previously the most infectious variant of the coronavirus. Recent evidence suggests that Omicron infects human tissue 70 times higher within 24 hours when compared to the Delta variant. These are ominous signs of a virus that has reached its most efficient form and will disseminate through populations with unprecedented pace. Today, I will share with you my thoughts on the possible repercussions that we may face once Omicron begins to surge here.
It may happen sooner than we think
Most of our neighbouring countries have started to declare cases with the Omicron variant and this is an obvious red flag for us. Being at the frontlines, I am seeing trends that indicate that we may have this strain here and the surge may occur earlier than we think. Given the trends worldwide, and from patterns from previous spreads, I am concerned that we may see the Omicron surge soon and it may peak in January 2022.
High number of persons being infected at once
In the US, the CDC is estimating that the percentage of cases from Omicron has jumped seven times in a week. UK health officials are estimating the risk of spreading Omicron to another household member as being three times higher than the delta variant. The data is obviously suggesting the potential for a higher number of persons becoming infected with COVID-19 than with any previous variant. What is alarming, is the majority of these infections may occur within a shorter period than we would have previously experienced. We may see unprecedented numbers of daily infections in the coming weeks. I will not be surprised if we register more than 500 daily infections from testing daily. I hope I’m wrong but given the available data, there is a high likelihood of this occurring.
High number of hospitalisations
Data so far is suggesting that Omicron infections may be less severe than the delta infections. A study published by the London Imperial College showed that the risk of having to be hospitalised from an Omicron infection is 40-45 percent lower than that of a Delta infection. Death rates from Omicron thus far have been hovering around 0.03 percent of infections while the COVID-19 death rate before Omicron was previously around 3 percent of infections. While these numbers can change, it is so far showing a trend of Omicron being more efficient in its spread but less effective in causing severe disease or death. However, this can be a double edged sword since a larger number of persons being infected at once can mean a higher proportion of persons needing hospitalisation in a short space of time. This can have the potential to overwhelm hospitals and be detrimental to optimal patient care. My hope is that the majority of Guyanese will display mild symptoms since most of the population would have developed antibodies either from a previous infection or from vaccination.
A high percentage of the working population being on medical leave
With the potential of unprecedented numbers of infections occurring in a short space of time, comes the risk of a critical portion of the country’s workforce being sick on medical leave. The New York Fire Department is currently seeing an upsurge of staff calling in sick with 10 percent of firefighters and 16 percent of EMS workers on medical leave. The Guy’s St. Thomas Hospital in London is reporting that almost 10 percent of its Doctors and Nurses are off from work sick with COVID-19. These are just examples of what may occur with our workforce when Omicron peaks in the new year. The risk of not having sufficient health workers because too many are on medical leave from COVID-19 can only compound the challenge of taking care of patients during a pandemic surge. Medical and economical productivity may take a hit during the Omicron wave. Our goal should therefore be to slow this spread as much as possible by practicing preventative measures and thereby, preventing the system from becoming overwhelmed. The Omicron wave will last for a much shorter time than the previous COVID-19 waves and may also signal the end of the pandemic as the targeted “herd immunity” may be achieved with such large numbers of infections.
The beginning of 2022 may be a period of trials but it may set the foundation for a return to normalcy when the storm is over.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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