With 2021 coming to an end, a new COVID-19 variant has posed a threat to the resumption of normalcy. This variant, the B.1.1.529, popularly known as the Omicron variant, is now being studied closely by scientists, medical practitioners, and medical officials. Although the number of cases of Omicron detected in India are just above 100 now, there may be a good chance of it increasing exponentially in the next couple of months.
While the Omicron variant has already made its entry into India, it is supposed to have originated from South Africa, and officially been identified in Botswana.
Soon after the identification of this new variant of COVID-19 by a team in Botswana headed by Dr Sikhulile Moyo, the World Health Organisation (WHO) did not hesitate to classify it as a Variant Of Concern (VOC). The reason that the WHO has classified this variant of COVID-19 as a VOC is because of the high number of mutations and its rate of transmission. Soon after, many other countries also identified this new variant affecting their population.
Do not hesitate to get an RT-PCR for diagnosis of Covid even if you experience mild symptoms and no fever. Early identification, self-isolation and treatment can play a significant role at this time.
Transmissibility of Omicron
Although the most recent data suggests that the Omicron variant has much higher transmissibility than even the previously deadly Delta variant, it does not seem to be overloading hospitals yet. The latest data points out that even though more than 50,000 cases have been reported in the last couple of weeks in the origin country of this variant, the number of deaths reported due to Omicron is significantly low.
This naturally poses questions about the transmissibility and the severity of this mutation of the Coronavirus.
What We Know So Far
Based on statistical data from South Africa, the epicentre of this new mutation, it has been assumed that the Omicron variant is 3 times more capable of infecting other people as compared to the delta variant. Moreover, the rate of increasing cases has surpassed that of the previous 3 waves of COVID-19 as well.
At the other end of the globe, Japanese researchers have been able to confirm that the Omicron variant is 4.2 times more transmissible than previously reported variants. Apart from the countries in the African continent, this new mutation has penetrated the populations of the UK and other European countries as well. More than 77 countries have reported Omicron cases so far. There can also be a case that some countries may have undetected cases of Omicron spreading. What is more alarming is the fact that the number of cases has been seen to be doubling every 1.5 to 3 days.
How Severe is Omicron?
Most patients in the affected regions of Africa have reported mild to severe headaches, scratchy throat, body aches and a constant sense of fatigue. This is a stark contrast to the symptoms reported by patients during the Delta wave (which included fluctuating pulse rates and respiratory trouble). However, it is important to note that it is too early to comment anything on the presentation and severity of this variant. There are reports on cases with severe symptoms and fatal consequences as well.
World Health Organisation says not to take this variant lightly because-
- Omicron can cause a full spectrum of diseases ranging from asymptomatic, mild, severe and even death. With an increasing number of cases, it can put a burden on the healthcare system.
- Even if the majority of the population experience mild to moderate symptoms, the vulnerable population (those with comorbidities, weaker immunity, elderly and unvaccinated) is still at risk of severe disease.
- Delta is still the dominant variant and we all know its nature and severity.
The Efficacy of Vaccines Against Omicron
A high number of mutations in the spike protein of Omicron has raised a question on the efficacy of existing Covid vaccines. There are no studies so far to show the inefficiency of vaccines so far. There can be some variation in the efficacy but vaccines are definitely going to help. Also, delta is still the dominant variant so irrespective of the variant type we need to get ourselves vaccinated and follow steps to reduce our risk of exposure.
While the transmissibility of this new variant currently seems much higher than any previous variants of the Coronavirus, it is important to remember that timely medical intervention is the key. And more important is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and following all the safety measures sincerely. On a positive note, we are all well versed with Covid-appropriate behaviour by now and can play a heroic role in reducing the spread of Covid infections in our region.
Whatever it may be, it is always important to eat a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants and exercise regularly, to help boost your body’s natural immunity. This can, to a great extent, help your body fight off the infection and suppress any life-threatening symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.