1. Latest updates: Omicron is a variant of concern that is currently spreading quickly. It appears mild in symptoms with fatigue & soreness the main manifestations, rather than respiratory, gastro or fever presentations. With over 30 mutations, including 10 relating to the spike proteins that can help evade our immune systems, nations are on high alert to understand its infectivity, deadliness and resistance to vaccination.
  2. Virus: SAR-CoV-2 is a virus that incubates for ~5 days and can spread without symptoms in approximately 45% of cases. Known as a coronavirus, it can last on surfaces for up to 30 days and transmit through respiratory droplets or through air (its microdroplets can travel 10 metres). Over 260 million cases and 5 million deaths have been confirmed globally due to COVID-19, and over four billion people have had at least one vaccination (~55% of the world’s population). Delta variant is currently the fastest spreading strain of the virus with a R0 of 5-8 (a measure of transmissibility; original Wuhan strain had a R0 of 2). Other significant variants include Alpha variant (UK), Beta variant (South Africa), Gamma variant (Brazil) and the emerging Omicron variant (South Africa).
  3. Symptoms: Documented symptoms include fever (80% of cases), cough (69%), fatigue (38%), mucous (34%), loss of smell (30%), shortness of breath (19%), body aches (15%), headache (14%), sore throat (14%) and gastro-intestinal symptoms (5%). 80% of individuals develop mild to moderate symptoms, with 15% developing severe symptoms, and 5% suffering critical symptoms. The Delta variant appears more like a cold, with predominantly headache, runny nose and sore throat symptoms.
  4. Vaccination: In NSW, those not vaccinated against COVID-19 are 16x more likely to die or end up in ICU, and most current COVID-19 cases are unvaccinated individuals. Pfizer, AstraZeneca & Moderna are the current vaccinations available in Australia, with Novavax also being supplied from 2022:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech – This is a mRNA vaccine which is 95% effective against symptoms and 90% effective in reducing transmission – against Delta variant its effectiveness decreases to 80%. Two doses are provided 21 days apart and side effects include sore arm (68%), fatigue (29%), headache (26%), muscle pain (17%), and fever/chills (7%).
    • AstraZeneca-Oxford – This is an adenovirus DNA vaccine which is 82% effective against symptoms and 100% effective against severe disease – against the Delta variant it is 70% effective. Two doses are provided 6 to 12 weeks apart and side effects include sore arms (64%),  fatigue (53%), headache (53%), muscle aches (44%), fever/chills (32%), and joint pains (26%). Rare clotting disorders have been reported (1 in 40,000 in under 50 years & 1 in 200,000 in over 50 years) which is less common than clotting from COVID-19 itself, or just taking an airplane trip.
    • Novavax – This is a spike protein vaccine that is 90% effective, administered in 2 doses 21 days apart, and comes with similar side effects to the vaccines above.
    • Moderna – This is a mRNA vaccine that is 90% effective, administered in 2 doses four weeks apart, and has similar side effects to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
    • By the way, also make sure you get an influenza jab at least a week apart from COVID vaccination.
    • Booster vaccines – Those who are 18 years and above, and have been doubly vaccinated at least 6 months ago, are eligible for a 3rd booster vaccine to ensure a stronger and longer lasting protective effect individually, and prevent community spread of the virus. Pfizer (or Moderna) is the approved and suggested booster vaccination regardless of the original vaccine, though AstraZeneca is available upon request if Pfizer is not suitable medically, or you initially had the AZ vaccine with no side effects. It is unknown whether further booster vaccinations will be necessary, and guidelines are regularly changing.
  5. Risk: The most important ways to reduce infection risk include social distancing, N-95 or 3-ply masks, hand hygiene, surface cleaning, vaccination, and reducing time in crowded places with poor ventilation. Adopting “universal precautions” when there is an active outbreak is helpful – this means assuming everyone else has COVID-19 and doing everything possible to reduce the risk of transmission. Stabilising any chronic health conditions and boosting your immunity is important – read these links for practical ways to improve your health: diet & exercise, stress and rest, medications, and high-risk illnesses. Research shows that exercise, vitamin D supplementation and avoiding influenza concurrently, are strong predictors of recovery.
  6. Long COVID: 10-20% of COVID-19 patients experience symptoms weeks or months following initial illness, including: breathlessness, cough, fatigue, concentration or memory issues, mood changes, loss of smell or taste, headache, sleep issues, chest pain, muscle aches and joint pains. This is more likely the older the patient, if there is a history of asthma and if the initial illness was severe. Gut biome and overall health status are thought to also increase susceptibility to long COVID; therefore staying healthy is important during this challenging time (managing your health proactively also reduces the chance of severe COVID-19 disease and hospital admission). Most individuals have a full recovery with variable lengths of time – if concerned about symptoms of long COVID, see your regular doctor – Osana is providing a long-Covid program to reduce symptoms and promote recovery.
  7. Prognosis: COVID-19 is not as infectious as measles or chickenpox but currently has a death rate of 2%. Recent cases of hospitalisation include younger Australians and this is consistent with Delta variant observations around the world. Approximately 14% of cases are severe and need hospital admission, and about 7% of cases end up in intensive care. Hospital admission and death rates are higher in patients who are obese or have chronic health conditions that are not well controlled. Despite being doubly vaccinated, aged care residents and those with pre-existing significant health issues, have been passing away from COVID-19 or been admitted to intensive care.
  8. Treatment: There are emerging medications approved for treating COVID-19, including anti-virals; these are yet to be approved for use in Australia. Supportive measures include lying prone (on your tummy) to support optimal breathing, panadol and ibuprofen to relieve symptoms (fever, body aches, cough), adequate fluid intake, rest and nasal breathing, together with maintaining personal hygiene and a healthy diet.
  9. When to seek help: If symptoms are severe and not manageable at home, please seek medical advice. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you experience trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake or have pale, grey or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds. Current therapies that have shown to be effective in treatment of COVID-19 include antiviral therapies, steroids and immune based treatment (such as antibodies from already infected COVID-19 patients).
  10. More information: We recommend you refer to the Government website for factual updates here and here, and for those researching vaccines and detailed evidence-based answers, refer to the University of Oxford evidence repository (or ask your GP).

For some more common questions about Covid – 19 , please visit our Covid -19 webpage here.