Since its identification in November, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spread to more than 125 countries, where it has become the predominant variant, pushing hospitalization to a new pandemic peak. I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of the good, the bad, and the unknown.
How did we get here?Viruses and variants
First, a brief review.
The virus produces billions of copies in the body during infection. Your immune system must overcome this copy flood to eliminate the virus. A faster, stronger immune response reduces infection time and its consequences.
Viruses often make errors when copying themselves, and the genetic code is slightly different. These genetic differences can change the way the virus works. These changes are included when the virus copies itself. If that new version survives, it’s a new variant.
Variants are categorized based on the threat they pose to people. So far, the COVID-19 variant has only risen to the variant level of concern. VOCs differ from the original virus in that they put us at risk and change our approach.
What’s new in Omicron?
Omicron is VOC. The fact that it spread rapidly and became dominant all over the world reveals something different about it. But what? Why is it even more tricky? Researchers have spliced it together quickly but carefully. The current practical theory of omicron is:
• Becomes infected faster than previous variants. The original COVID-19 virus took several days to incubate in the host’s body. In other words, it can take several days after a person is infected before the symptoms actually appear. The Delta Variant (another VOC) has reduced that time to 4 days. Omicron is transmitted in just a few times.
• The first symptom of Omicron is often the respiratory system. In 2020, body aches, fever, and loss of taste and smell were obvious signs of COVID-19. In contrast, Omicron often begins with a cough or sore throat.
• Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death, but it is less effective in preventing symptomatic cases. Omicron has far more “breakthrough” cases among vaccinated people than Delta and the original COVID-19. However, vaccination greatly enhances the body’s immune response. Vaccinated Omicron patients are less likely to show serious symptoms, be hospitalized, or die. Booster shots provide additional protection.
• Most of our treatments and other tools still work. Our PCR (or polymerase chain reaction swab) tests, home tests, antivirals, care regimes, vaccines, and other tools for combating COVID-19 are all still working. The only major exception is monoclonal antibody therapy, but new varieties of them are also being developed.
• Omicron is not so deadly. Hospitalization is fairly advanced, but the number of deaths is not. Omicron also seems unlikely to kill. That’s good news!
• Still dangerous. Omicrons are less dangerous than previous variants, but they are still dangerous. Especially if you are unvaccinated, old, or have a weakened immune system. Also, the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection are unknown.
What are you going to do now?
The key to overcoming Omicron is to stay alert to what we are already doing. However, there are some subtle but important differences to note.
• Masks are more important than ever, but they enhance the game. The previous form of COVID-19 was carried in the air by droplets, but a persistent cough caused Omicron to more properly float in the air. This will significantly reduce the effectiveness of the cloth mask. N95 and KN95 masks are best. In the meantime, double the mask.
• Take cough and other symptoms seriously. A short incubation period and a quick cough mean that you have a great responsibility to avoid exposing others. If you feel sick, don’t push yourself. Avoid unnecessary contact until you can undergo a COVID-19 test.
• If you need testing but are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, go to your doctor or state testing site. Our hospital is tense between breakthrough cases and high infection rates. Save the emergency department for those in need of emergency medical care.
• Get vaccination and / or booster immunity. Variants are easier to form when run unchecked for infection. Vaccines protect you from severe cases and reduce the chance of a prolonged pandemic.
Finally, keep learning. I very deliberately call my point above the “current working theory”. Avid doctors, researchers, and scientists are enthusiastically adding an understanding of COVID-19 at about the same rate as the virus changes. Don’t take this column as the last word — I don’t. Be prepared for what comes next.
Dr. Suthanya Sornprom is the attending physician for infectious diseases at the Bassett Medical Center.
Your Health: What You Need to Know About Omicron Variants | Lifestyle
Source link Your Health: What You Need to Know About Omicron Variants | Lifestyle