The flu-like illness spreading across the capital is likely caused by the Omicron variant of Covid-19, warn health experts. Various studies are underway to confirm the existence of the variant in Ethiopia, with results scheduled to be announced in two weeks, according to experts in the National COVID-19 Task Force.
“The situation in Addis Ababa and other cities may be related to the current pandemic, as there is no new flu outbreak acknowledged by the Ministry of Health,” said Dr. Mebratu Masebo, coordinator of the Task Force.
More than 5,000 cases were registered on December 28, a record high since the Coronavirus was first discovered in Ethiopia in March 2020. The latest Omicron variant is spreading more quickly than other variants according to the World Health Organisation.
"It is better for people with these flu-like symptoms to assume they have COVID unless they get tested and have a negative result,” said Dr. Mebratu.
The volatile nature of the latest Coronavirus variant, along with the negligence of protective measures in the community has worsened the problem.
The latest figures, according to the daily case reports by the Ministry of Health, indicate the percentage of diagnosed people has grown from around 10 percent early last week to over 30 percent of overall tests administered this week.
There are currently 550 testing centers across the country conducting thousands of tests daily. More than 410,000 people have tested positive for COVID, and 6,919 people have lost their lives to date.
The increase in cases is also expected to be related with the Omicron variant, as indicated by the presence of associated symptoms.
These are characterized by flu-like symptoms; sore throat, congested nose and coughing among others as documented by the National Covid 19 Response Task Force. Furthermore, a significant number of people with coronavirus are at risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, paralysis, and psychological disorder.
Public negligence continues to play a major role in the spread out of the pandemic with a reported carelessness in house-to-house gatherings, according to the public health expert.
“All precautions must be taken as Ethiopia is currently in the fourth wave of the pandemic,” said Dr. Mebratu. “We have forgotten the virus will be around for months or years as it worsens.”
Nearly 10 million people have been vaccinated nationwide, as health experts urge all people over the age of 12 and those who have been vaccinated over six months ago, to get a second and third round of shots.
Though vaccinated individuals have a possibility of catching the new variant, they are less likely to require intensive care, suffer long-term consequences and have a lower death rate from the virus, according to the health expert.