By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Emergency Medicine Specialist
Kaieteur News – Approximately 10 weeks ago, I had alerted to the fact that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had formed sub-variants and the Omicron Ba. 2 subvariant (Omicron 2) was most likely to take over from its sister variant, Omicron Ba.2 (Omicron 1). It was the Omicron 1 which was responsible for the largest number of infections we’ve ever had since the pandemic started. Omicron 2, has now become the dominant form of the virus worldwide and is most likely responsible for the surge in infections here, given the anticipated pattern of rise, which we are currently seeing. Our experience with previous waves will help through this wave but we should not throw caution to the wind and be reckless. Today, I will share with you my thoughts on this new wave and some tips that will help you manoeuvre through this risky period.
Will this be similar to the Omicron 1 surge?
Yes and no! Given the data from other countries that would have experienced the Omicron 2 surge, there are some similarities but sufficient evidence to suggest differences that will be to our benefit when compared to the Omicron 1 surge. While Omicron 2 is more infectious than Omicron 1, it appears to be less deadly and has caused less hospitalisations. It is infecting the fully vaccinated and those that were previously infected with Omicron 1. However, almost all that were previously infected are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. The fully vaccinated are being infected at higher numbers but smaller numbers are getting the severe form of the disease when compared to the unvaccinated. Given the data, I anticipate a surge that may last about 6-8 weeks leading to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths but at about half the proportion that we would have seen with Omicron 1.
Who’s more at risk?
The following individuals are at higher risk of being hospitalised or dying from Omicron 2:
• The elderly
• Those with Co-morbid conditions (cancer, HIV, Obesity, poorly managed diabetes, etc.)
• The unvaccinated
If you do not fall into any of the mentioned categories, it doesn’t mean that you are not at risk; it’s just that your risk of dying or having the severe disease is lower. If you are exposed to someone with the disease and they were to emit a large amount of the virus which you inhaled, you are at a high risk of getting a severe form of the disease no matter how healthy you may be.
Can I live freely if I am fully vaccinated?
It is very difficult to live freely during a pandemic or endemic. However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot go about everyday life either. Living smartly should be sufficient for you to do your daily activities while de-risking your chances of becoming a victim of this wave. Even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you can still be infected and die from the disease, but chances of this occurring are lower when compared to an unvaccinated person.
What basic measures should I take?
Everyone including the fully vaccinated (and boosted) is at risk of being infected during this Omicron 2 surge. We should therefore avoid closed, poorly ventilated, and crowded spaces as much as possible. If we cannot avoid such spaces, we should ensure that we are masked up and others around us are masked also. Using mask in outdoor spaces is unnecessary unless you are in a dense crowd and persons are breathing in your face. Also, ensure you get your vitamins (especially Vitamins C&D and zinc) and you are keeping healthy so that your immune system is primed for any infection. Getting daily sunlight is vital for your immune system so ensure you are exposed to the sun daily. Data has shown that countries with year around sunlight, fared better with Covid-19 when compared to others. Sunlight is needed to convert Vitamin D to its active form and also helps with mood. These are key factors that help in the fight against Covid-19.
So, there is no reason to panic; we have enough armour to withstand this wave of Covid-19. We can go about our lives during this surge, but we should arm ourselves and be smart with our choices in order to win this battle.
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