Health Issues | Missing masks, no reinforcements: the end of the road for Covid-19 or the beginning of a new challenge?

Health Issues |  Missing masks, no reinforcements: the end of the road for Covid-19 or the beginning of a new challenge?

Easing mask mandates on flights, dismissing the need to collect information from international passengers, and no solid push from the government to get reinforcements despite minimal buy-in: are these signs that Covid-19 is all but dead?

Possibly yes!

Virologists and microbiologists believe that the trend shows that it is probably the end of the road for the coronavirus pandemic. However, they are quick to add that the farewell to Covid-19 could be the start of something new, since one does not know the long-term health consequences of even milder coronavirus infections.

We know that fresh infections can certainly emerge with new variants that might resemble the common cold and flu. There appears to be no evidence of increased severity, so there is no immediate threat. But in the long run, there is uncertainty about what these milder infections would mean.

One year later, Omicron continues

In an interview with News18, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, a former Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientist, clarified that the country had previously seen new waves almost every six months. But in the last year, it continues the same Omicron lineage that shows that while the virus is trying to mutate, it is losing its virulent, lethal characteristics.

Omicron was spotted in November 2021 and within a year, no variants of concern have been flagged except for the different lineages of Omicron that have grabbed the headlines. New evolutions have been reported, but being from the same family, they have not led to any increase in the rate of hospitalization or severity.

story of a virus

The virus is an intelligent pathogen and its only goal is to exist in this world. For its existence, it needs a host: a human body.

Killing humans by causing a lethal disease ultimately hinders his own goal. When a human dies, the life of the virus will also come to an end. Therefore, the progression of the virus makes it less virulent and more infectious.

For example, as in the case of Omicron, the virus will continue to infect more and more people and thus live inside more and more human bodies. However, since it is less virulent, the virus will not cause serious illness. Therefore, the virus will survive along with the host and continue to infect others.

What is happening now?

The world is currently undergoing a “convergent evolution”.

For example, when we became humans from apes or monkeys, our tails disappeared or the appendage shrank. Similarly, these organisms also evolve. The coronavirus is now evolving and changing over time, making it more infectious but less deadly.

It shows this: Omicron was found to have 37 mutations on top of the initial Wuhan virus, which shows that the virus is trying to generate various changes to sustain itself.

The virus wants to survive by hook or by crook, but it has two enemies: the natural immunity of the human body and the immunity provided by human-made vaccines.

With the Omicron and Delta waves, almost everyone had at least one episode of covid-19 infection, which means they already have natural antibodies against the virus.

I remember when Gangakkhedkar explained the coronavirus to me: “This pathogen is very intelligent. It will find alternative ways to enter our bodies.”

Gangakhedkar, just to add a brief introduction, has dealt with viruses throughout his career and led many assignments on behalf of ICMR, including the Nipah outbreak in Kerala, which showed a mortality of over 89 per cent. His experience also includes HIV.

“Kabhi police bann k aayega… Kabhi lawyer bann k aayega… Kabhi daadhi (beard) laga ke aayega ya kabhi daadhi hataa ke aayega [It will disguise as a policeman, sometimes as an advocate; it may come with a beard or without one]”, he explained about the coronavirus.

Now, all over the world, people have received the Covid-19 vaccine. Every time a virus enters a human body and attempts to enter cells to cause an infection, it fails. Due to this failure, he is forced to evolve and bring changes.

Most of the vaccines made around the world were made to attack the spike proteins of the virus. From Covishield, mRNA, Corbevax, Sputnik, or J&J, these vaccines target the spike protein by preventing the virus from attaching to ACE2 receptors and entering human cells.

This forces the virus to make changes to the spike proteins, since it knows that’s where it’s in trouble. The virus is mutated to avoid the vaccine or natural immunity.

Therefore, we see new strains with changes in spike protein patterns. This confirms that for every new strain that evolves, the immunity against infection provided by the vaccine will fail.

The virus is fighting for its survival, just like humans. But up to this point, there’s no increase in severity or hospitalization, so it’s not a problem. It is highly unlikely that things will start working differently now, scientists believe.

However, new strains will continue to arrive as humans have pushed the virus against the wall as much as possible.

Start of a new challenge

There doesn’t seem to be evidence of increased severity, so there’s no immediate threat, but we don’t know the “long-term consequences,” Dr. Anurag Agrawal, former director of the CSIR Institute for Genomics and Integrative Biology, told me.

“People at high risk should be cautious and consider additional boosters, preferably bivalent when available,” he added.

Now, the dean of biosciences and health research at Ashoka University, said: “Not much can be done from now on other than being mindful. Better vaccines, like nasal shots, are the long-awaited solution. More of the same (type of vaccines) have diminishing returns.”

Nearly half a dozen experts I spoke to agreed that older people or people with comorbid conditions should wear a mask indoors or in crowded places and avoid getting infected.

Currently, there is limited evidence on the long-term impact on physical, social, and emotional functioning after mild or moderate COVID-19 that does not require hospitalization. But many other studies indicate that even a mild infection can cause long-term health problems.

It goes to show this: A study published in Nature found that even a mild case of Covid-19 can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular problems for at least a year after diagnosis. Another study indicates a change in menstrual cycle length and menstrual volume as a result of Covid-19 infection.

In addition, there are many factors associated with prolonged Covid-19, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anxiety, depression, migraine, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, benign prostatic hypertrophy, erectile dysfunction, and dysfunction. celiac. There could be many other issues that, as of now, we are not aware of and can understand as we go along.

The advice, therefore, is that prevention is better than cure.

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