A recent spike in UK hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients this summer led experts to warn that Britain was in the midst of a fifth wave of coronavirus infections being driven by Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. , a timely reminder to remain vigilant.
Life has returned to normal since final social restrictions were removed on February 24, with masks, distancing and hand sanitizer largely forgotten by most as the national focus shifted to Partygate, the war in Ukraine and the crisis of cost of living.
But the country saw a 43% rise in cases in early June, apparently caused by people gathering to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee over the course of a four-day weekend, and the infection rate continued to climb to peaked at about 4.6 million cases in mid-July, before gradually starting to decline.
August finds Britain in a much better place in terms of infections, close to just 120,000 a day according to the ZOE Health Study.
Before that, the last big spike in cases came from Omicron, which spread rapidly around the world after being discovered in southern Africa in late November, once again threatening Christmas celebrations and sparking a rush on booster vaccines.
Omicron has proven to be less serious but more transmissible than its predecessor variants Alpha and Delta, with the total number of daily cases in England skyrocketing to a pandemic high of 218,724 on Jan. Kingdom, before gradually falling. , with the exception of a revival inspired by its first subvariant, BA.2, in March.
Since then, only people over 75 have received a second booster dose, meaning immunity could be starting to wane and prompting a new booster to be offered more widely this fall.
“If we’re going to get on another wave, maybe it’s something that should be reconsidered,” suggested John Roberts, a top analyst at the Covid Actuaries group.
The recent approval of Moderna’s new Omicron-specific jab is a welcome development for the UK in this regard and the injection could end up playing a significant role in any other vaccine initiatives to come.
What public health officials had to quickly learn when this variant first arrived last winter was how it differed from the original Covid strain.
While the World Health Organization estimated that symptoms took between two days to two weeks to materialize in cases of people infected with the first strain of coronavirus, Omicron proved to incubate much faster, closer to three to five days.
“Recent analysis by the UK Health Safety Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectivity may be shorter for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant,” then-UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told House of Commons on December 6, 2021.
This explains why the strain was able to spread so quickly and successfully, as the brevity of its incubation period gave patients a shorter window between suspecting they had contracted the virus and experiencing an outbreak, making an outcome less likely. positive on the lateral flow test. would be recorded in time to warn others, go into isolation and prevent the contagion from being transmitted.
A shorter incubation period “makes a virus much, much, much more difficult to control,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, noted in the Atlantic that same month.
Another feature of Omicron that made it potentially more difficult to detect than previous strains was that its symptoms differed slightly from the three primary indicators we were conditioned to watch out for in 2020: cough, fever, and loss of taste or smell.
Early warning signs for the newer variant, on the other hand, included a scratchy throat, lower back pain, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and fatigue, sneezing, and night sweats.
The Omicron cases analyzed in Britain found that patients typically recovered an average of five days to a week, although some symptoms such as coughing and fatigue were likely to last longer.
The shortness of breath experienced by some sufferers has often proved to last up to 13 days after other symptoms have passed.
Covid patients are generally believed to be infectious to others about two days before their first symptoms begin to materialize and for about 10 days afterward.
If you believe you have symptoms associated with the coronavirus, current NHS advice is to get a side flow test and self-isolate at home for five days if you test positive to avoid passing it on to others (you should stay away from anyone who may be particularly vulnerable because of their age or a pre-existing condition for 10 days).
If you must go out in public, it is recommended that you wear a face mask, avoid crowded indoor spaces, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
If you are concerned about your symptoms or believe they are getting worse, it is advisable to visit 111.nhs.uk, call 111 or call your local GP.
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