Omicron or Delta, does it matter?


Confirming that you have Covid-19 is more important than knowing the type of viral variant you have, as the precautions and treatments are similar. — TNS

Have you got Omicron or Delta?

If you’re sick with Covid-19, don’t bother trying to find out which SARS-CoV-2 viral variant is causing the infection.

Outside of a research study, there is little chance that an individual patient will be able to learn the variant type plaguing them, experts say, even though having the information may be useful for doctors in making some treatment decisions for that particular person.

Telling the difference among viral variants requires sophisticated testing called genomic sequencing.

Only a few laboratories are equipped to do the work.

“There’s no commercially-available option to order sequencing,” said Division of Infectious Disease chief Dr Daniel Griffin from Pro-Health, a healthcare provider based in New York state in the United States.

He added: “We live in a capitalist society, so you’d think someone would’ve jumped in.

“A lot of us would find it useful to have access to that information.”

To identify the wider spread of viral variants, state Health Department labs in the US earmark a certain percentage of Covid-19 samples for genomic sequencing – information that can identify a particular variant down to the ZIP code (or postcode) level.

But patients rarely get the test results, which can take up to a couple of weeks.

“The most important thing is knowing whether you have Covid-19,” said Johns Hopkins University molecular biologist Dr Peter Thielen, “and how that affects how you interact with the people around you.”

Regardless of which variant is causing the infection, the importance of quarantining during the most infectious period, masking in public and washing your hands is unchanged, he said.

Some medicines to prevent or treat Covid-19 are slowly becoming available, but the treatment protocols overall are similar, regardless of variant. – By Kris B. Mamula/The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

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