As COVID-19 cases surge in the US and Europe, experts believe that a cocktail of long-prevalent Delta variants and the latest Omicron may be driving the wave.
Calling it the 'Delmicron’ wave, a member of the COVID-19 task force in Maharashtra said there is a possibility that the West is caught between twin spikes of the Delta and the Omicron.
"Delmicron, the twin spikes of Delta and Omicron, in Europe and US has led to a mini tsunami of cases," The Times of India quoted Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra's Covid task force, as saying.
What is Delmicron?
As the name suggests, Delmicron is a combination of the Delta and Omicron strains of COVID-19. At present, Omicron is the more dominant variant in the US, accounting for 73 percent of fresh infections last week, AP reported on Monday quoting federal health officials.
According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 99.5 percent of the infections in the US in November were due to Delta. The Omicron variant recently surpassed the Delta as the dominant strain, CNBC quoted CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky as saying.
In the UK, the daily COVID-19 cases surpassed the 100,000-mark for the first time on Wednesday, even as preliminary studies published in the country and South Africa show that the Omicron is milder than the other variants, BBC reported.
The symptoms of Delmicron are the same as the Omicron and Delta variant. Those suffering from high temperature, a persistent cough, loss of smell or taste, headache, runny nose, and sore throat must consult the doctor and get tested for the COVID-19 virus. While Delta causes more severe disease, Omicron is heavily mutated and highly transmissible.
What are experts saying?
Although it is rare that a person will get co-infected in this manner, doctors believe those with a weak immune system, the elderly, and ones with comorbidities are at higher risk of getting the Delta and Omicron, simultaneously, Economic Times reported. Areas with low vaccinations rates are also at risk.
In Europe, the combination of Delta and Omicron has impacted immuno-compromised persons. According to IANS, the two variants are "operating separately as two epidemics at the same time" in some places.
“Even though Covid infections normally only involve one mutant strain, in extremely rare cases, it is also possible that two strains strike at the same time," IANS quoted Dr. Namita Jaggi of Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, as saying.
Chances of co-infection are higher when one gets exposed to a large crowd where people could be carrying different variants, she said.
Health experts are, however, divided on whether the combination of the two variants can lead to a super strain.
According to Dipu TS of Amrita Hospital, the possibility of the two combining to become a super strain is bleak, as their co-existence is not symbiotic in nature and is more antagonistic, IANS reported.
However, Moderna's chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton said it was possible to create a new super variant if the Omicron and Delta infected a person at the same time.
"There's certainly data, there have been some papers published again from South Africa earlier from the pandemic when people - and certainly immunocompromised people - can harbour both viruses," Daily Mail had quoted Dr. Burton as saying earlier.
In India, where the Delta variant had widespread exposure, experts are still weighing the impact of the Omicron. According to union health ministry data, India currently has 236 cases of the Omicron variant.
While the Omicron is fast replacing the Delta in other countries, the Delta derivatives are still the main variants circulating in India, Joshi told The Times of India, adding that "there is no way to predict how Delta derivatives and Omicron would behave."
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)