The new variant of the COVID-19 virus was identified as a variant of concern on 26th November 2021 by WHO. The Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant, which spreads rapidly from one person to another. Even though this variant causes mild symptoms and affects the upper respiratory tract instead of the lungs, its high potential to cause infection is a cause of concern. Omicron spreads three times faster as compared to the Delta variant.
Like other variants, Covid appropriate behaviour is also essential when it comes to Omicron. Considering its rapid transmission rate, it is essential to break the chain of the virus transmission effectively by following some precautions.
Some of these precautions are as follows –
Wearing a Certified Mask
Replacing cloth masks with a certified N95 mask is recommended to prevent infection by the Omicron variant. Even though cloth masks also protect against COVID-19, an N95 mask is preferable against the more infectious Omicron variant. The American Centre for Disease Control advises N95 masks even for people who are not health workers.
N95 masks provide filtration of up to 95% of particles present in the air. These masks do not allow airflow from the sides which help in effective air filtration. There are many counterfeit N95 masks in circulation, thus it is essential to look for BIS or ISO masks to ensure that the N95 mask you are purchasing is authentic.
Inoculation Against COVID
Vaccines for COVID-19 have been produced swiftly by many pharma companies. The number of doses administered is nearing 160 crores in India. It is important to get vaccinated against Covid immediately. The Omicron variant is infecting vaccinated individuals as well. However, the symptoms in vaccinated individuals are mild and many report no symptoms at all. The vaccine prevents hospitalization and death.
In many countries, the low occupancy of hospital beds in the latest wave of Covid infections is directly linked to high vaccination coverage. There are several studies in progress in many countries regarding the effectiveness of booster doses in increasing protection against Omicron.
Maintaining Social Distancing
The Omicron variant spreads rapidly among humans. This means a single infected person can infect others swiftly. Thus, maintaining social distancing remains an essential part of Covid appropriate behaviour. Avoiding crowds especially in confined places is crucial to avoid getting infected. All kinds of social gatherings, sporting and public events involving a large number of people must be avoided.
Avoid leaving your house except for urgent matters. Regulations regarding the number of people allowed in marriage functions, workplaces, and other gatherings are already in place. These must be followed. It is also important to avoid travelling to ensure social distancing.
Washinging Hands with Soap or Sanitiser
Like other variants of COVID-19, Omicron stays in the air and remains on surfaces for a long time. The virus can contaminate any surface touched by an infected individual and transfer to others as well upon touching the contaminated area. This is a big risk, especially in public places.
Thus, washing your hands with soap or sanitiser after returning home from the office, marketplace, or any other public place is recommended to avoid infection. Carrying a hand sanitiser with you when you go out is also beneficial. Any person visiting your home should be asked to sanitize her/his hands before stepping in. Soap or sanitiser neutralizes the virus present on your hands by destroying its lipid bilayer.
Avoiding Contact with People Who Returned from Abroad
Government regulations call for quarantining of people who return from foreign countries. Foreign travellers are required to undergo Covid test on arrival and undergo mandatory quarantine even if they are not infected. However, there can be instances when certain people avoid the mandatory quarantine after returning from a foreign country. In such a case, it is necessary for the friends and relatives of the person to avoid meeting her/him.
Improving Your Immunity
As in the case of other variants, strong immunity is an effective weapon against the Omicron variant. The T-cells of the immune system destroy the virus-infected cells. Thus, attempts must be made to strengthen the immune system to fight the virus effectively.
Food items rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin C and D, and proteins and antioxidants improve the immune system. Garlic, ginger, raw honey, bell pepper, green leafy vegetables, high-fibre foods, and fruits must be included in the diet. Avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol is also recommended.
Moderate exercise each day and 7-9 hours of sleep also help in strengthening the immune system.
Keeping an IR Thermometer
Fever is one of the common Coronavirus symptoms, and it is important to monitor your body temperature regularly. An infrared thermometer is a contactless thermometer that provides the temperature reading without coming in contact with the body. Keeping this thermometer handy at home is recommended.
Precautions for Vulnerable Individuals
People suffering from co-morbidities are more vulnerable to infection by the Omicron variant as compared to others. People should not miss out on their medications and consume only the advised diet. Consultations with the doctor are also recommended to know the best practices to avoid infection. For example, diabetic patients need to keep their blood sugar levels under control and stay at home as much as possible.
Avoid Junk Food and Maintain Hydration
Junk food such as pizzas, burgers, momos, chow mein and more weaken the body’s defences against infection, thereby increasing the risk of infection by the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. In food delivery apps, ordering junk food is very easy but eating junk food increases the risk of getting infected.
A high hydration level protects the body against a host of diseases, including Omicron infection. Thus, drinking plenty of water throughout the day is recommended by doctors.
Get Tested in Case of Symptoms
Symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, body ache, and low-grade fever are the main Omicron symptoms. In the event of the appearance of these symptoms, it is important to get tested and self-isolate. Even if the Covid does not cause the symptoms, the test confirms it.
Omicron is spreading rapidly across the globe. The only positive point here is that it is milder in comparison to the earlier variants. Also, many people across the country have been inoculated which is further denting its spread and effect. This does not in any way mean that it can be taken lightly. People are still getting hospitalized, of which some are, unfortunately, breathing their last as well.
The pain of losing someone is inexplicable. So, follow the Covid guidelines, wear a mask whenever you head out and ensure that you have a good health cover to cushion you from the hard blows of hospital bills. Do not opt for any health cover, instead, opt for a Vital one starting as low as Rs. 299 per month.