What you need to know:
- It would be a fair guess that one in three Kenyans, especially in urban areas, have already been infected.
- However, deny it or not, the fact is that Omicron is as rampant in Kenya as it is in other parts of the world.
You wake up in the wee hours of the night breathing with difficulties, you feel uncommonly tired and listless, your muscles ache, your throat goes all scratchy, and then when you try to drink something you cannot smell or taste it.
By then your outlook on life will have changed dramatically. If on top of that you develop a headache and an unproductive cough, your pulse quickens and your nostrils get encrusted with dry matter, you will know for sure that your entire system has been compromised by a viral infection.
Should you have, in the past 10 weeks or so, experienced any or a combination of these symptoms, then the chances are high that you have been infected by the greatly underrated Covid-19 virus variant, Omicron. You will not be alone.
Figures for the fourth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic have been sparse in Kenya, mainly because Omicron is merely the latest variant of Covid-19 and therefore part of the official statistics released by government on the pandemic. It is therefore difficult to say for sure just how widespread this latest variant is among Kenyans.
However, it would be a fair guess that one in three Kenyans, especially in urban areas, have already been infected, some without even knowing it. But even among those who realise that they have been attacked by the virus but did not even need to see a doctor, very few are talking about it. Call it fear of stigma or mere denial, but at the moment, only a few brave souls are whispering to their mates that some kind of flu sat on them for a week but they are now feeling much better.
However, deny it or not, the fact is that Omicron is as rampant in Kenya as it is in other parts of the world. However, the good news is that it is not as devastating as the earlier variants of Covid-19, which resulted in long expensive stays in hospital and sometimes death. This may explain why the variant has been given such a low priority and publicity.
In fact, at one point, I suspected a conspiracy of silence by Ministry of Health honchos to keep the outbreak under wraps for PR purposes, only to realise that Kenyans are more scared of stigma than they are of ailments that resemble mild bouts of flu. However, my contention is that they should, in fact, be worried because Omicron is highly transmissible and there is a grave danger of it mutating to more deadly variants unless everyone is immunised.
While there is no cure for Covid just as there is none for other viral diseases like flu and homa, it is possible to mitigate its effects through mass immunisation.
This is the reason the ministry has rolled out vaccination programmes, for one thing has become quite clear. Those who have already received the jab are less likely to rush to hospital than those who have rejected it for foolish reasons or those without any access to vaccine. The ministry is alive to that fact, but still only a tiny fraction of Kenyans has been vaccinated. Why this is so remains a mystery.
The vaccine hesitancy could be borne of ignorance, but there are cases of people rejecting the jab because they have been told it is harmful to their health, while others have been told that the vaccine will actually infect them with Covid-19 instead of protecting them.
The more educated among the covidiots have somehow been convinced that Bill Gates and a few other sinister philanthropic billionaires invented the virus so that they can, one, control world populations and ensure non-whites do not multiply and, two, control the production of vaccines for material gain.
Last Covid-19 variant
This, of course, is arrant nonsense. One would say that those who believe in conspiracy theories of this nature deserve everything they get, but unfortunately, the matter is not so simple.
If you don’t seek protection from the virus, you imperil the lives of others.
However hard you try to protect yourself, chances of finding yourself in its deadly grip is high if a significant number of Kenyans do not really care. This is why it is really infuriating to see chaps who still think a face mask is an unnecessary intrusion into their lives and therefore sling it around their chins to protect themselves from the authorities. That’s folly on stilts, but then stupidity has never been a punishable offence under the law.
Parting shot: Scientists say there is a high chance that Omicron is the last Covid-19 variant and the pandemic will go away on its own, but only if everyone on earth gets vaccinated and then receive booster shots. But as the director-general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, pointedly warns the developed world, “... booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while millions remain unvaccinated.”
The same thing can be said of poor countries like Kenya. If a significant number of our compatriots remains unvaccinated, there is no hope of ever beating the virus.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor. [email protected]