Emergence of Omicron Variant Adds Urgency to Vaccination and Mask Messaging. Anti-viral Sprays can Offer additional Protection – By Dr István Jankovics
With Covid infections running at around 200,000 per day and over 1600 deaths per week in the UK combined with the threat of the more infectious Omicron variant and a return of the flu, now is not the time to let down our guard. As the UK government revises its infection control policies, leading international virologist and clinical microbiologist, Dr István Jankovics offers some simple advice to help you stay safe this winter.
Vaccines first and foremost
The Covid vaccine programme is heralded as a great success and indeed it has played a huge part in keeping down morbidity and mortality rates as infection rates have soared. So everyone who is eligible should get all three doses of the vaccine.
Professor James Kingsland an internationally renowned Primary Care physician, Clinical Professor and practicing medical practitioner for over 37 years commented: “We have to recognise that we will never achieve 100% vaccination uptake for a variety of reasons. Ineligibility for some age groups at present and contraindications for a small few, in addition to the ill infomed choices some are making as well as the anti- vaxxers means that we will always get transmission which I am afraid we will just have to live with. So, although vaccines are the most important way to protect yourself they will not, on their own, eliminate the virus from society any time soon. Virus mutation will continue and the level of severity of the newly identified Omicron variant will take days to several weeks to fully understand. In addition it is not yet known how effective current vaccines will be against new mutations , although there is good reason to suppose they will reduce the severity of symptoms of those infected.”
Lessons from the pandemic
We all became ‘experts’ in infection control during the pandemic so let’s not forget some of the valuable lessons we learned that helped millions of people to stay safe. Professor Kingsland added: “Covid 19 is now an endemic disease. It’s going to be with us for many years. Maybe it’s not about wearing a mask at all times but more about using the experience we gained in the early stages of the pandemic and wearing a face covering in crowded public places, on public transport and other enclosed spaces. And if you are going to a crowded venue, take your responsibility to others seriously and take a lateral flow test beforehand. Maintaining good hygiene and appropriate social distancing when possible should also not be forgotten. We live in uncertain times, and so we all have to use our recently acquired knowledge and judgment to stack the odds in our favour”
Additional layers of protection
We need to reinforce the messages about prevention, especially the value of everyone wearing a mask in crowded or poorly ventilated places. The use of antiviral mouth or nose sprays also help to add an additional layer of protection. Sprays such as ViroStop which is a certified safe herbal treatment which recent studies show protection against the coronavirus as well as influenza and the common cold. A clinical study published in September 2021 showed its efficacy in reducing viral shedding and reduction in symptoms of those infected. In-vitro studies gave strong evidence that the product could also have some significant effect in preventing Covid 19 infection in the first place. This was backed up by a study published in November 2021 where compelling evidence for ViroStop’s preventative effect was produced. Another benefit was that volunteers who took the spray developed antibodies to Covid at three times the rate of the control group, giving them ongoing resistance to the virus.
Professor Kingsland added: “These new anti-viral sprays on their own are not going to stop Covid in its tracks. That’s the job of the vaccine, but they can provide an additional barrier to viral infections including influenza. The key point is that these sprays are approved by the UK regulator as safe and there is an evidence base for its efficacy; so I ask the question why you wouldn’t add them to your anti-viral armoury?”
Double down on proven methods of infection control
Recent new evidence reported in the British Medical Journal has shown that wearing a mask is particularly effective, reducing transmission by 53%.
But there are a number of other less obvious ways to stay safe this winter such as taking vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system, to allow the body to fight off infections.
Mitigate what we can’t eliminate
Now is not the time for complacency and some of the simple measures outlined above could help us manage the new reality that we are going to have to live with Covid and manage its worst effects in the same way as we mitigate the impact of influenza with vaccination and sensible preventative measures.
About the author: Dr István Jankovics is a leading international virologist and clinical microbiologist from the Hungarian Complex Medical Centre Déli Clinic in Budapest.