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Omicron - Overview, Statistics, Symptoms, Testing, Vaccination, and Prevention

Overview

South Africa reported a new variant of SARS COV-2 to WHO on 24th November 2021. By now, it has spread across various countries, including India. WHO has classified this omicron variant under "variant of concern" due to the multiple mutations it has undergone. But WHO also mentioned that if the virus is more transmissible, that does not mean it is more virulent or lethal.

Statistics

Till date, the omicron variant has spread across 26 states in India, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan. With the increase in the number of cases, people want to know about the symptoms of this new variant, so let's look at the signs of omicron infection.

Symptoms of omicron variant

The most common symptoms are

  • Tiredness
  • Scratchy throat
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

Loss of taste is not so common.

Diagnosis

RT-PCR is yet the most commonly used diagnosis. The test detects various genes present in the virus, such as Spike (S), Nucleocapsid (N), and Enveloped (E) protein. In the case of omicron, as there are mutations in spike protein, this protein is absent in the results, also called 'S gene drop out.' So it can be used as a diagnostic feature of omicron. But for concrete diagnosis, genome sequencing is required.

Vaccination

Following covid protocol and getting vaccinated is the only option available to prevent the spread of the virus. Vaccination can also decrease the chances of hospitalization and death caused due to the virus.

Prevention

We need to prevent transmission to break the chain of viruses. You can avoid omicron infection by-

  • Wearing mask
  • Avoiding crowded place
  • Maintaining social distancing
  • Maintaining good ventilation in the room
  • Getting vaccinated

Treatment

Early identification of the severity of symptoms and planning the correct therapeutic modalities (antiviral / antibody cocktail / immunomodulatory agents etc.) in consultation with the physician/intensivist would be of utmost importance.

At-home treatment/ Asymptomatic/Mild cases

  • Rest- Avoid exertion and relax for a speedy recovery.
  • Isolate- Don't go out and isolate yourself. But stay connected with your friends and family virtually.
  • Take fluids- Drink water regularly as dehydration can worsen the symptoms.
  • Consult doctor- Stay in touch with your treating doctor. Consult immediately if the symptoms worsen.
  • Medications for comorbidities- Continue taking medications for comorbidities (if any) as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Symptomatic treatment- Follow the symptomatic treatment for cough, fever, body ache as prescribed.
  • Self care- may do warm gargles and inhale steam twice a day.

Treatment in hospital

If you have severe symptoms, your might need to go to the hospital where the doctor might -

  • Check your oxygen saturation with an oximeter
  • Use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs
  • Advise COVID- 19 test
  • Advise Chest X-ray / CT scan

Your doctor will advise one or multiple therapeutic modalities, such as.

  • Antiviral medications- Antiviral medicines won't kill the viruses, but they restrict the production of new viruses. Remdesivir is an antiviral drug approved by FDA for covid cases.
  • Monoclonal antibodies- These are protein molecules that mimic the body's immune system cells and fight against the pathogen.
  • Immunomodulators- These are medications that support the immune system by modifying the body's immune response.
  • Oxygen support- Supplementary oxygen is provided to meet the oxygen demand.