Amid the rise in cases of the Omicron variant worldwide, the government is gradually introducing new steps to prevent infection by the highly-transmittable variant of Covid-19.

With the recent increase in the number of cases and test positivity in Bangladesh, the health authorities have attributed the surge to people’s unwillingness to maintain hygiene rules as well as the presence of the Delta variant, which is still prevalent in the country.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant is also starting to make its mark with reports of 30 cases so far.

With two variants of coronavirus and the flu spreading this winter, some may be wondering if they have been infected with the cold, flu, the Delta variant or the Omicron variant. Here are a few tips that may come in useful.

Symptoms

Symptoms of both variants are almost common.

However, early data from other countries say cough, fever and muscle aches are common for both variants, but the symptoms are likely to be mild for Omicron.

While shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell are common for the Delta variant, mild fever along with fatigue, joint pain and runny nose are common symptoms of the Omicron variant.

“There is not much difference in the symptoms, but patients with a severity of them will likely be lower in the Omicron variant though the number of infections will be higher,” said Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Advisor Mushtaq Hussain.

The only difference between symptoms is it is likely to be mild in Omicron, he said.

Transmissible rate

Infections from Omicron may double in just three days, against around seven days for Delta. Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or do not have symptoms. While symptoms of Delta are reported to last for a period of 10 days, it is 4-5 days for Omicron variant.

Which one is severe?

Omicron, despite being more infectious, appears to produce less severe disease than the Delta strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Early cases of Omicron were identified among young people in South Africa as mild and so how Omicron affects the elderly is still unknown.

 Which vaccines provide protection?

Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from Covid-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. For Delta, vaccines have remained effective in the same criteria as well.

Many studies are now underway to look into vaccine effectiveness against Omicron, but it is always better to be vaccinated than not, particularly for people at risk, people aged over 60 years, and people with underlying conditions.

“If it is your turn for a vaccine, get the one you were offered first to reduce your risk. Do not wait for a vaccine that you want to take,” suggests IEDCR Advisor Mushtaq Hussain.

 Mask effectiveness

WHO recommends that people use medical masks (also known as surgical masks) that are composed of three layers of synthetic nonwoven materials, configured to have filtration layers sandwiched in the middle, available in different thicknesses and have various levels of fluid-resistance and filtration.

Disposable medical masks are also recommended for people aged 60 or over, people of any age with underlying health conditions and anyone who is feeling unwell, including people with mild symptoms, such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue.

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