With the advancement of the variant and more access to vaccines, the time in which people affected by Covid-19 can transmit the virus has changed.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in November in Africa and in less than 2 months it spread throughout the world: it has already reached 149 countries. There is evidence to show that Omicron has a substantial growth advantage over the Delta variant. Regarding its community transmission, Ómicron has a doubling time of between 2 and 3 days. If a person is infected with the Omicron variant today, they should be aware of how long the infection lasts and that it can infect others.
The Ómicron variant is a more transmissible variant and generated an explosive increase in cases in most cities where there is community transmission. More than 312 million cases of Covid-19 have already been registered in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Since November, the circulation of Ómicron has been growing until it has become predominant and is displacing Delta.
Every time a person becomes infected, there is an incubation period, which is the time between infection by the virus and the appearance of symptoms of the disease. With Covid-19 there are cases of people who acquire the infection but have no symptoms.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has been considered that the incubation period for coronavirus infection can range from 1 to 14 days, and on average around 5 days. For this reason, people who had been in close contact with a confirmed case were required to self-isolate for more than 10 days. In the case of the flu, on the other hand, the incubation period is 2 days on average and ranges between 1 and 7. With Ómicron, the incubation period is two to three days.
The most frequent symptoms of Covid-19 are fever of 37.5°C, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, rhinitis/nasal congestion, muscle pain, headache, diarrhea or vomiting. Sudden loss of taste or smell may also occur. In these cases, you must isolate yourself and consult the health system of the locality where the person is.
And when does the affected person stop spreading the virus? “Today, based on the available evidence, it is known that 97% of people with Covid-19 stop transmitting the coronavirus after 7 days from the onset of symptoms. This change is due to the fact that the Ómicron variant is circulating and that a greater proportion of the population is already fully vaccinated. By being vaccinated, the risk of that person spreading the virus if they become infected is reduced,” explained Dr. Javier Farina, member of the Argentine Society of Infectious Diseases (SADI) and head of infectology at the Cuenca Alta High Complexity Hospital, in Cañuelas, province of Buenos Aires.
It means that some Seven days after symptoms appear, most people will no longer be contagious. That will happen as long as they no longer have symptoms. In the event that the person has the virus but does not present symptoms, that is, that it is an asymptomatic case, it is considered that they stop spreading the virus after 7 days of having performed the PCR, said Dr. Farina.
Dr. Karin Kopitowski, director of the Research Department, Instituto Universitario Escuela de Medicina, Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires and president of the Metropolitan Association of Family Medicine, commented: “Currently, it is considered that the person with Covid-19 can spread the virus. others for 7 days. Therefore, they are recommended to isolate for a week. In fully vaccinated, asymptomatic people, the time it takes to transmit the virus is likely to be shorter.”
Complying with the 7-day isolation is important to rest, recover and care for others. Because the coronavirus is transmitted by proximity to an already infected person both in a closed environment and outdoors. It is also transmitted from infected people and can become airborne, especially in places with poor ventilation. People who exhale it in droplets or aerosols can be infected without showing symptoms. A home in which people spend many hours a day together is a privileged place for contagion to occur.
The Omicron variant brought the pandemic into a new phase, with a “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases. Health care services are in high demand, and there is a shortage of available tests both in Argentina and in other countries. The technical chief of the World Health Organization (WHO), María Van Kerkhove, asked on Wednesday that the risk of Covid-19 with the Omicron variant not be minimized.
“We have started this year with record numbers of Covid-19 cases reported to the WHO. More than 15 million cases were reported during the last 7 days. It’s a high record. We still have case detection and notification and this has to do with access to tests. We don’t have adequate access to life-saving tools like diagnostic tests around the world. We continue to work for that. But that doesn’t take into account the challenges of surveillance around the world as much as people self-testing at home and not being recorded. We know that 15 million is an underestimate,” said epidemiologist Van Kerkhove.
Regarding deaths, there were more than 43,000 deaths reported to WHO. “So we see a major change between the number of cases and a smaller proportion of people who are dying. We still have 43,000 people who have died in the last seven days alone, and every single one of those cases is a tragedy,” Van Kerkhove said. And he warned the world that there may be more deaths.
“As soon as Ómicron enters and circulates among vulnerable populations, we will see an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Therefore please treat this virus as seriously as it should be considered. It is not to scare anyone, but the narrative that it is a common cold is not true, he warned. The narrative that it is only mild is not true. We really have to fight it. It is not time to give up. We have the tools that can keep people safe. Vaccination among those most at risk around the world plus using tools to reduce transmission. Both sides of that equation are very critical right now and we need to reinforce that comprehensive strategy.”