Omicron is mild, why the hype?
It is worrying to see a perception being created that Covid infection with omicron variant is mild and there is no need to panic about it. This is a dangerous perception for multiple reasons:
- It is much more contagious than the previous variants and a single infected patient can potentially infect many more than the previous variants.
- Infection with omicron causes relatively milder symptoms and very often people brush it off as a small cold. If one is actually infected and does not know it is covid infection due to omicron, they tend to move around as normal people and infect scores of people in the community.
- Omicron does not cause serious disease and deaths is gradually becoming the common belief. World over although a much smaller proportion (specially those in the vulnerable category) are needing hospitalisation (even ICU care) and deaths have also been reported. Even if the incidence of a serious disease is lower is any individual justified in infecting a vulnerable person and creating a potentially dangerous situation.
- When symptoms develop and one does not get tested, it is practically impossible to differentiate between delta infection and omicron infection. All of us are aware that delta variant is more dangerous and we have had a terrible experience during the second wave. Is it right for someone who is symptomatic not to get tested and neglect a possible delta infection.
- Why take vaccine when omicron possibly cause breakthrough infections is fast becoming a reason for vaccine hesitancy. Globally it have been proven that vaccinated individuals are likely to do much better than the unvaccinated if infected. There is enough evidence that booster doses are extremely useful.
In this scenario what is the right thing to do. First thing is to accept that the pandemic is still on and it has the possibility of causing huge surges. The government is playing its role but individuals have a bigger role and the measures they need to take are simple and cost nothing. While the government continues to do what it is doing we as individuals can contribute in a big way to manage this pandemic and limit the damage it can cause. It is worth reiterating what has been repeated ever since the pandemic broke.
- Proper use of masks
- Avoid gatherings
- Spend time in open well-ventilated areas rather than closed spaces
- Maintain social distancing
- Get tested with minimal of symptoms and don’t wait
- Seek medical help early
- Make sure you have all the right information for home isolation. (this is critical as it is projected that a majority of those infected with omicron variant can be managed by home isolation)
- Get your immunisation doses (including boosters) when due as per regulations
- Make sure you, your families, friends, communities and even strangers follow covid appropriate behaviour.
Complacency at this time could put the healthcare infrastructure under tremendous stress. Even if 1% of positive cases need hospitalisation our healthcare infrastructure will be informed and we may once again land in the terrible situation during the second wave.
It is time for the people to take the management of the virus into their hands and make sure we emerge out of this pandemic sooner than later.
Dr. K. Hari Prasad
President, Apollo Group – Hospitals.