OMICRON VARIANT

‘Sore throat, body pains’: The flu that got Kenya talking amid Omicron

Increased cases of body ache reported as Omicron variant detected.

In Summary
  • A few weeks ago, the ministry and the state said there is no need for a lockdown because vaccines are widely available and appear to offer protection against severe consequences of the virus.

  • Kagwe said that they will continue to push for vaccinations.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a presser at Radisson Blue in Nairobi on June 25, 2021.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a presser at Radisson Blue in Nairobi on June 25, 2021.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

On Wednesday, Kenya recorded its first case of the Omicron variant, right after Rwanda and Uganda.

A month ago, experts said that more information on the Omicron variant was expected in the weeks following its detection about a month ago in South Africa.

The WHO during a press briefing said that “Omicron is likely to spread faster” than the other variants, and with this cold weather, increased flu like symptoms have been reported by Kenyans, way before Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced the first case.

The question is, do we blame the cold rainy weather for the increased coughs, chest pains, sore throats, running nose and tiredness, or is it possible that the virus was in the country long before the ministry picked the first case?

Image: Courtesy: Pinterest

What we know so far

According to an analysis of data from South Africa, where the variant is driving a surge of infections, the variant easily spreads from one person to another but it is better at evading vaccines while causing less serious illness.

The data also shows, while the numbers are rising, there is less hospitalisation; leading scientists to believe that the risk of hospitalisation from the variant is lower than the delta or other variants.

A few weeks ago, the ministry and the state said there is no need for a lockdown because vaccines are widely available and appear to offer protection against severe consequences of the virus.

Kagwe said that they will continue to push for vaccinations.

He however urged unvaccinated Kenyans to receive the jab as increased transmission makes it hard to control the set efforts by the government.

According to Reuters, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that at least one person died in the United Kingdom after contracting the omicron variant, marking what the publication said was the first publicly confirmed death globally from the swiftly spreading strain.

There’s little evidence that that the variant could outsmart the current vaccines used globally.
OMICRON: There’s little evidence that that the variant could outsmart the current vaccines used globally.

Symptoms you should look out for

So far, the symptoms have been described as “mild” by the South African doctor who first raised alarm over the new strain.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC that she started to see patients around November 18 presenting with "unusual symptoms" that differed slightly from those associated with the delta variant, which is the most virulent strain of the virus to date and globally dominant.

"It actually started with a male patient who's around the age of 33 ... and he said to me that he's just [been] extremely tired for the past few days and he's got these body aches and muscle pains with a bit of a headache," she told the BBC.

Coetzee said that the patient did not have a sore throat, but more of “scratchy throat”, but no loss of taste or smell. Adding that the main complaints were headache, body pain, tiredness, mild temperature and a slightly scratchy throat.

A sore throat means that your throat hurts and is irritated, swollen, or scratchy. It usually hurts worse when you swallow.

while a scratchy throat is a common symptom especially during the cold seasons when the air is dry and upper respiratory infections are spreading.

The headache and body pain can be “severe” if the patient is unvaccinated. However, Coetzee added that it is manageable at home with commonly used medicines.

As more data is required to confirm the behavior of omicron, the Ministry of health advises Kenyans that are suspicious of the said covid-19 symptoms to visit health facilities to get tested while observing the Covid-19 protocols.

Kennedy Wafula, a laboratory technologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, obtains a swab sample from a Mathare resident during a free Covid-19 PCR testing on August 17,
COVID TEST: Kennedy Wafula, a laboratory technologist at Aga Khan University Hospital, obtains a swab sample from a Mathare resident during a free Covid-19 PCR testing on August 17,
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Managing the symptoms

The World Health Organisation says people with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should manage their symptoms at home.

But on average it takes 5–6 days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however it can take up to 14 days.

The standard recommendations to prevent the spread include washing hands with soap and water, using an alcohol based sanitizer, covering the nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing and avoiding any close contact with anyone with high fever and cough.

Build your immunity

Lemons are rich in vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that improves the body immune system.

Nutritionist Wincate Wangari advises having lemon juice early in the morning increases immunity that helps the body fight foreign pathogens.

INGREDIENTS

1 glass of lukewarm water

1-2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ tablespoon honey (optional)

Adding fruits that will boost the Vitamin C will help boost our immunity.

Ginger and lemon concoction.
Ginger and lemon concoction.

Health experts say steaming the face with hot water may help to decongest the stuffy nose but does not help cure or prevent Covid.

According to Health line, it may help ease feelings of irritation and swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages.

The moisture may also help thin the mucus in your sinuses, which allows them to empty more easily.

This can allow your breathing to return to normal, at least for a short period of time.

Swabs from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from public or private hospitals, which are sent to labs for analysis, can show if the variant causing the infection looks like Omicron, Delta or something else.

Confirming that a suspected case is Omicron requires a full genetic analysis, which takes between four and five days.

PCR tests can help detect Covid-19 but further analysis has to be done to detect the variant.