A WhatsApp forward claiming that the Omicron variant is very different from the other COVID-19 variants is misleading. The viral message makes a misleading claim that people will not have cough or fever, the classic symptoms of diagnosing COVID-19, but pneumonia and can only be identified through a X-Ray
The Omicron variant was first identified by South Africa on November 24, 2021. Scientists and researchers have said that it is too early to make any conclusions about the transmissibility, immune escape or specific symptoms of the variant.
To further add credibility to the message, it shares that the UP government is changing its COVID-19 precautionary measures to tackle the Omicron variant. BOOM found that apart from stricter screening and surveillance, the rules mentioned in the message are already in place in the state and are not put in place due to the new variant.
The message in two parts in Hindi reads, "UP held an emergency meeting with the whole cabinet. Any type of protesting in the state will be strictly prohibited till further orders. Schools will open with 50% capacity from tomorrow, children will go to school for 3 days out of 6 days. Online classes are resuming in schools and colleges. Those without masks will be punished. Full vaccination will be mandatory to work at private offices.
This time we will have no cough, no fever, no joint pain, just weakness, loss of appetite and COVID pneumonia! Of course, the higher the mortality rate, the less time it takes to reach the peak. Sometimes no symptoms... let's be careful. This directly affects the lungs, which means the duration is shortened. Many patients are seen without fever, but an X-ray report shows moderate chest pneumonia! Nasal swab is often negative for COVID19! The virus spreads directly to the lungs causing acute respiratory distress due to viral pneumonia. This explains why it has become intense and more deadly!!! Be careful, avoid crowded places, wear face mask, wash hands frequently. The waves are more deadly than ever. So we have to be very careful and take every precaution. Don't keep this information with you, share it with your family and friends. Please take care and stay safe!"
BOOM received this message on its WhatsApp helpline requesting verification.
This message is also viral on Facebook with the same caption.
Even the English caption is viral on social media.
However, this is not the first time that the message about the different symptoms and the danger of the variant is in circulation. Earlier in June, the same message went viral when the Delta variant was responsible for a surge in cases across the world.
BOOM found that this message has been in circulation for months and it gets viral every time a new variant is being discussed. The messag claims that this particular variant is difficult to diagnose as the person does not have the regular symptoms that are characteristic of COVID-19. However, there is no evidence stating that fever, cough are not symptoms of this variant. The World Health Organization has added that fatigue is a symptom that should not be ignored when identifying this variant.
First discovered in South Africa on November 24, there is not enough information available about this variant. The variant has over 30 mutations on the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 which make it easier for the virus to bind to the body and enter it. South Africa's surge in cases has been attributed to this variant. The current research does not state whether the variant escapes the vaccine's immunity or causes reinfection. There is a growth curve but its infection rate is still unknown.
Scientists as well as the WHO have also stated that it is really early to make any conclusions about the variant and countries should not introduce travel bans on the high-risk countries.
India is one of the countries that has reported cases of the new variant. While one person had travel history, the other is considered to be a local transmission. All the contacts of the two positive cases have been traced and tested. It is not known yet if the contacts have been infected with the Omicron variant.
Other than South Africa, most other countries are currently reporting the variant in single or double digits. Thus, thorough research from the African nation only will help formulate theories about the variant's transmissibility.
Several Indian states are now strengthening their screening, testing and surveillance methods to ensure that the variant does not spread rapidly amongst the population. The Uttar Pradesh government called for a Cabinet meeting to discuss the same and is now enforcing stricter screening methods.
Along with asking close to 73,000 surveillance committees to stay on alert, the UP government intends to start genomic sequencing at Lucknow's KGMU college and also create enough oxygen plants for the state.
The other guidelines of closing down schools, continuing online classes, banning any kind of protests, access to some private places only after mandatory vaccination were set in place months before the state slowly started opening up its services. They have not been executed after the news of the Omicron variant as the message claims.
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