COVID-19 is the newly spurned lover, that is unwilling to leave us alone even for a while, a SCA(RE CO)VID, stalking us uninterruptedly and indefinitely in its different variances. ‘Drumrolls please, it is here for a long haul’- what with this new variant- Omicron (B.1.1.529), and its super new variant Deltacron? Although we were able to MacGyver out of the initial terror zones made of Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), and Delta (B.1.617.2) with timely precautionary measures and vaccination, many remain unvaccinated, like children, and a few others- who are still in the process of getting immunized. Further, to our dilemma, these new, two variants are dangerous. The former is wanton- travels without restrictions and can easily reinfect people who have already suffered from COVID-19 variants before, or even vaccinated, and can (though, less likely) even cause death in some cases.
Furthermore, this variant, which was first discovered in South Africa has a lot of mutations too, and some are appallingly chancy. But, what is good about this new variant is that it is not supposed to be severe, as learned from early data from England, where only 15 to 20 percent of people affected with Omicron were less likely to be hospitalized or sought medical care, and only 40 percent were less likely to be admitted for a night- less spartan vis-a-vis its Delta counterpart.
Coming to the second variant now, Deltacron- which is a mix of two viruses, Delta and Omicron as the name suggests, and was first detected in Cyprus, is yet to be flagged off, even though it has already been making a buzz in a few countries. But, the reason for its origin is debatable, and odds are coming to one of the three reasons derived so far. A person can be co-infected- he already had Omicron and attracted Delta virus at the same time; the two viruses can co-exist in his body and can be detected in the test reports as two different entities.
The second reason could be a laboratory error. The test tube (not properly cleaned) had an undetected Delta virus, or the virus came from the air, etc at the time of testing, and their genomes mixed to produce a new combination. The third possibility could be the recombination of the two viruses to make one variant owing to genetic characteristics giving way to mutations in spike protein which made them flexible to enter human cells and become more infectious as a result.
And then, the various, asymptomatic hybrid mutants took a couple of weeks to blow up fully in a human body to cause definite symptoms and gave birth to the new virus of concern- Deltacron.
Symptoms of Omicron and Deltacron:
Apart from the regular symptoms of Alpha, Beta, and Gamma viruses, consisting of a runny nose, fever, loss of smell/taste or both, cough, chest, body pain, breathlessness, headache, fatigue, sore throat, etc, high fever, fatigue, and body ache were rampant throughout the Delta wave.
Joining the bandwagon, the new variant- Omicron, supposedly causes a sore throat (leaving you to feel like there’s a frog in your throat), fever, back pain, night sweats, dry cough, etc. In more severe cases, dehydration and chest pains in adults can be prominent and might need hospitalization. Children could refuse to eat, feel confused and lost, their lips might turn blue, complain of lightheadedness, etc. if they suffer from a bout of Omicron. But for the most part, symptoms could be mild but one mustn’t get fooled. For people with underlying conditions, and in older people with frail immunity, it can be critical.
Deltacron, the double whammy: It is still in the nascent stage and affects the upper respiratory tract mostly. If runny nose, cough, and congestion are sending u in a tizzy, it’s time you go for a test.
The old, RT-PCR, CT-scans, and antigen-based rapid diagnostic testing methods, used to detect earlier coronavirus variants are effective for Omicron and Deltacron as well.
A new, one-of-a-kind COVID Test Kit from Tata’s, ‘OmiSure’ has come to the market, priced at 250 INR, it will identify infections from Omicron variants and will be available from January 12, ’22.
For starters, get fully vaccinated, wear a mask, maintain a safe distance, sanitize hands frequently, avoid large, social gatherings, cover your mouth while coughing, and nose while sneezing, keep your house clean, keep your windows open for fresh air, keep air purifier (possibly with UV light to kill viruses), avoid guests, cut down on socializing, quarantine when sick, eat home-made food, etc.
Home care, which was actively introduced in the second wave, takes the center stage one more time suggesting people care for the affected at home, quarantining, keeping in touch with a community health worker in the locality and following people over comorbidity at the same time to stay safe. But, hospitalization cannot be overlooked if the patient becomes critical despite all the attention.
Moreover, since Omicron is highly transmissible, given its immune skirting nature, an infected family member is capable of passing it on to all other family members. But mild symptoms can be managed at home with proper care. And, what’s more? Those with mild conditions can take care of the severely affected family members at home to help them convalesce!
Alongside Merck’s anti-viral pill Molnupiravir, Pfizer’s experimental anti-viral pill, Paxlovid has made its mark in the market, cutting rates of hospitalization, and death rate by 89 percent.
Wind beneath their wings:
All the variants of COVID-19 are airplane friendly and they spread their wings easily, passing from one traveler to another and infecting the people of their country of arrival. To our common plight, Omicron has shown the sharpest increase over other variants of concern, making its mark in 77 countries according to the latest available data of December’21 and cases numbered 1,05,296. And, what’s more, alarming is that the mutations have shown growth advantage- Deltacron, being its first variant. Finally and in hindsight, the onus of ensuring the safety of the passengers still lies on the airlines now more than ever.
Shutdowns, one more time: Partial lockdowns have been imposed in some countries one more time, but countries that have still not been able to recover from the pandemic prompted recession are unlikely to stop their businesses like the last time; whether partial or full, expecting to hopefully tackle the new variants without closedowns. Stay at home or take a cut in your paychecks- they have heartlessly put their foot down.
But, India is still struggling to start schools and universities- kids’ health outdoes other things.
Conclusion: The world exceeds 300 million known cases of COVID-19 including the likes of the last two who joined in recently- Omicron and Deltacron, causing 5 million-plus deaths. About 9 billion jabs have been administered so far- adhering to the guidelines framed initially. What with this third jab trend? It is for the people with very weak immunity if I am not wrong, as they get administered as a defensive measure. Do we need to toe the line too? If our immunity ditches us forsaking a clean bill of health, we will have no options left.
Credit source WHO, Indian Express, The Hindu, CTV news
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