Since the dawn of COVID-19 in 2020, the world has experienced massive shifts in financial, physical, and mental well-being. People started to realize the worth of family, health, mental peace and valued them above everything else. Although lockdowns and travel restrictions disrupted our daily lives, they also brought us together. We always found a way to help each other and stay connected.
Now, after almost three years of the first wave, lives are returning to normal all over the world. Most of the countries have experienced a few surges in COVID cases due to different variants, namely Delta and Omicron. Although we are tremendously cautious at the beginning of every wave, we become complacent as the number of cases dwindles—which again gives rise to a new spike of cases.
What is happening in China (2023)?
Just as we were about to breathe a sigh of relief, China reported an increase in COVID infections caused by a new Omicron variant known as BF.7. Reports say that in China, 59,938 people died due to COVID between December 8, 2022, and January 12, 2023. It was a huge spike from the 13 COVID-related deaths that were recorded in November 2022.
People started to question the reliability of the data provided by China. The reported number of people affected by COVID does not include asymptomatic people treated at home. On January 11, 2023, a report by Peking University stated that roughly 64% of people (an estimated 900 million) in China were infected with COVID. The hospitals were overcrowded with infected patients and had long waiting queues.
This sudden surge in COVID cases resulted in the US government and the European Union requiring a mandatory negative COVID test for travelers flying from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The situation in China also stirred up global concerns over the severity and magnitude of the new Omicron variant.
What is the current COVID variant?
The latest mutation of the coronavirus named Kraken—officially named XBB.15—is a variant of the Omicron. This variant is a combination of two BA.2 sublineages. In India, a few patients were detected with the XBB.15 variant, while a few other patients were affected with the BF.7 variant.
- In the US, infections due to COVID rose from 12% to 42% in a few weeks.
- The number of COVID-related cases in the UK doubled during the first two weeks of January.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that XBB.15 is the most transmissible variant detected and could be more contagious than its previous counterparts. It also comes with the possibility of bypassing immunity developed by vaccines and past infections. Omicron and its derivatives have been said to be less harmful and less likely to cause severe illness than previous versions (such as Delta). However, much about the variant remains unknown and is being researched.
What are the symptoms of the infection caused by XBB.15?
The symptoms of XBB.15 are similar to the symptoms reported for Omicron. Because COVID symptoms are frequently confused with those of the flu or a common cold, it is strongly advised to get diagnosed at a local hospital. The symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Cold, cough, and sneezing
How can we safeguard against Omicron variant XBB.1.5?
To protect against Omicron, follow the same preventive measures as for other COVID-19 variants. Before consuming medicines or getting vaccinated, one should always consult a doctor, and it depends on the medical history. Make sure to follow any additional guidelines issued by local health authorities.
There were times when we yearned for some kind of medical defense against COVID and were blessed with different types of vaccines. We must get fully vaccinated and encourage our families to do the same. Many places now require vaccination certification to be allowed to enter.
The robustness of a vaccine lasts only for a stipulated number of months, after which one needs to get booster shots to continue the benefits of immunity. The effect of the latest variants is measured against the immunity level supplied by the vaccine and its corresponding booster doses.
Masks have always been a barrier that provides fundamental protection against virus particles transmitted in the air. As long as we wear high-quality N95 masks around people, we can stay assured that we have taken the primary, precautionary step towards safeguarding ourselves and our families.
Practicing good hygiene
In crowded places, follow social distancing. Avoid resting your hands on public surfaces (e.g., seat trays, bathroom door handles) touched by everyone. Ensure you wash or sanitize your hands before consuming food or touching your face. Stay at home when you are sick and get proper rest to protect the people around you.
Health experts confirm that patients have recovered from Omicron variants without undergoing severe conditions. For now, it is not a cause for concern or fear. With awareness and preventive actions, we can slow down the spread and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from the virus.