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How Real Is The Possibility Of A More Dangerous COVID-19 Variant?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

The coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic (that will hopefully in time become an epidemic). It has been responsible for causing widespread damage to people in terms of one’s physical, mental and financial health. The pandemic which initially started out in Wuhan, China in December 2019 soon took over the world in a matter of weeks. The effects of the pandemic have affected a huge number of people irrespective of how they are as individuals and to which social group or strata they belong to in their corresponding society.


Although the intensity of the ripple put into motion by the pandemic might have been internalised by people differently the one factor that has united everyone is the grief caused due to the pandemic.

But the storm has in all probability passed. With more than half of the population in India already double vaccinated, now geared up for their booster doses, people feel more confident than ever before. Civilians have eased into the new normal, the economy is slowly coming back up on its heels and people have found new outlets to come to terms with their new Covid-induced lifestyle as well as health (both physical and mental). 

In this article, let us quickly revisit the earlier and ongoing variants and try to analyse if there is going to be variants worse than the Delta and Omicron?

A brief look into Delta

For India, undoubtedly the potent and most dangerous variant was the Delta strain that hit the country in the earlier part of 2021. While the United States and the rest of Europe were reeling under the first COVID-19 wave in 2020, most Indians across households were safe and secure due to the nationwide lockdown during this time.

The Delta variant was our worst nightmare and everything we weren’t prepared to handle. While on the one hand, hopes were high due to the initiated vaccination drives, on the other hand, complacency and utter disregard for COVID-19 standard protocols had seeped in amongst the masses leading to a surge in infections with fatal outcomes.  

Some of those who did not require hospitalisation and were able to recover at home suffered from fatigue, gastric troubles, shortness of breath, weak immunity, hairfall, COVID-19 brain fog and many other symptoms for months. While the world thought the worse was finally over with the successful completion of the full vaccination drive (comprising two doses), came the Omicron variant.

EG.5 is spreading quickly, but experts say it’s no more dangerous than previous versions. Another new variant, called BA.2.86, is being closely watched because of its mutations.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Insight into the Omicron strain

Out of all the strains till now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has agreed that the Omicron is milder in terms of disease severity. The reason why people were worried about the Omicron variant was that it is highly transmissible owing to its ability to evade immunity, whether inherent (from previous infections) or acquired from the vaccines. The need for hospitalisation due to an infection from the Omicron variant was less as it mostly causes a mild-moderate infection.

The risk of death from an Omicron infection is also less unlike the Delta variant seen in India. The duration of the 3rd wave started by Omicron was short-lived. While the infection spread rapidly from the end of December to January. By the end of January, the wave had started to subside and soon by February 15th, experts believe that it will reduce significantly. 

Given the mild nature of the current strain as well as the short duration of the wave we may assume that with further mutations, the strain of the SARS-CoV-2 is weakening. But this may not be true. Read ahead to get clarity.

Is there a variant worse than the two?

There are 2 possibilities here: 

  1. Now that majority of people around the world are double vaxxed with governments already in full swing with their 3rd and 4th booster dose drives, the question that seems to be going around people’s minds is that ‘is there going to be variant worse than both Delta and Omicron? Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist has stated that the pathogen will soon become an epidemic. This shows that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. 
  1. The viruses tend to mutate and change as they spread. The mutation can bring about a change in the property of the virus in terms of:
  • Disease severity
  • Rate of spread
  • Effect of existing treatment options
  • Effectiveness of existing diagnostic tools
  • There are chances that the newer variant may come out to be weaker but there are almost equal chances for a more severe variant to evolve. It is difficult to predict or assure anything about the nature of future variants at this time.

The news has been spreading about the NeoCov virus which scientists in Wuhan, China are currently studying. There is a lot of fear surrounding that but experts around the world have emphasized that further research is required to come to conclusive evidence regarding the possibility, intensity and danger of the variant. For now, it is too soon to tell anything about this. 

Conclusion

The debate on whether there is ever going to be a variant more dangerous than Delta and Omicron can be hard to address right away. While the Delta and Omicron variants are still pretty much amongst us, covid appropriate behaviour is the right practice. Governments are of the strong opinion that vaccination is a crucial tool for fighting this pandemic. However, as we continue to go about our normal lives, we should all be vigilant at all times; wear masks and sanitise our hands. We should get vaccinated, take the booster doses (when eligible) and seek medical help when our health seems even the slightest bit compromised. Together, we can bring an end to the global crisis by being responsible citizens.  

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

References

  1. https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/in
  2. https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/pages/news/news/2022/01/the-omicron-variant-sorting-fact-from-myth
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