As a consequence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, many questions arise today. To know what preventive measures to take, update your knowledge on the most common symptoms and current tests that detect the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in Guatemala
What are the most common symptoms of the Omicron variant?
The symptoms produced by the Omicron variant are very similar to those of the common flu and can occur in a variety of forms:
- Body aches and sore throat
- Runny nose
According to Tim Spector an epidemiologist at King’s College London, he notes that the symptoms of the Omicron variant do not present the general symptoms of Covid-19 such as loss of taste and smell, fever, shortness of breath, cough, and diarrhea.
What is the difference with the symptoms of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant?
Recently, the Ministry of Health has confirmed the presence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Guatemala, increasing the number of infections during the first weeks of January 2022. However, hospitals have not reported an increase in the number of patients in intensive or moderate care. Guatemala has accumulated the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Central America, with at least 16,263, and 669,012 confirmed cases of the disease.
Some of the factors that differentiate the Omicron variant from Covid-19 are the transmissibility and severity of the disease. A recent study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association highlights:
- Only 17.6% of patients required oxygen therapy in the 4th wave (Omicron) compared to 74% in the 3rd wave.
- Only 1.6% in the 4th wave vs. the 3rd wave. 12.4% received mechanical ventilation.
- Intensive care admission was 18.5% in wave 4 vs. 29.9% in wave 3.
These research indications are consistent with expert opinion. Although Omicron spreads more rapidly, the disease tends to be less severe than Covid-19. This is because the Omicron variant does not usually reproduce in the lungs. However, there is a possibility that this variant can develop into severe disease and even cause death, especially in unvaccinated patients.
Some differences between the symptoms of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant are:
What type of Covid-19 tests are useful for detecting the Omicron variant in Guatemala?
If you have any of the above symptoms, it is necessary to go to a laboratory for a COVID-19 test. This test will help to recognize a person infected with the Omicron variant.
In case of presenting different symptoms, it may be another type of respiratory disease or flu. In the following video, Dr. Edgar Miguel López Álvarez explains in detail what types of upper respiratory infections exist and how to prevent them:
The types of Covid-19 tests performed in Guatemala are:
- PCR test: Test performed through a nasopharyngeal swab. It has better sensitivity than a SARS-CoV-2 antigen test, detecting symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
- Nasopharyngeal Antigen Test: It is also performed through a nasopharyngeal swab. It is a specific test that can identify infected patients 2 and 7 days after the infection has been established, preferably indicated as an acute/early diagnostic tool in symptomatic COVID-19 patients.
- Nasal Antigen Test: Test performed by nasal swabbing. Like the previous test (Nasopharyngeal Antigen), it also evidences the presence of the virus within 2-7 days after the patient presents symptoms. Due to the characteristics of the sample collection, it is less bothersome than the nasopharyngeal test.
What is the Omicron variant of Covid-19?
The WHO has given the name “Omicron” to the new variant of Covid-19 which has generated much concern, due to the evidence showing the different mutations that it can present and that can influence its behavior.
Although it was observed that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is more viral and infections have increased uncontrollably worldwide, a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa stated that the clinical condition of hospitalized patients has been less severe. Fewer people required oxygen, mechanical ventilation, and intensive care. Hospital case fatality rates were 4 times lower during the wave-dominated by the Omicron variant compared to waves developed by the Beta or Delta variants.
However, in Guatemala, the idea of reinforcing preventive measures and, above all, complying with the corresponding vaccination intervals and booster doses is not ruled out.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have between 70 and 80% less risk of becoming seriously ill from this virus, as well as being hospitalized and preventing death.
Optimism is a virtue, but in the case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, there is no better virtue than prudence. Remember to keep in mind preventive measures, the use of masks, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing.