What Is Omicron?
Omicron is the name of the new variant of the Corona Virus. It has undergone many mutations. It got stronger compared to the original Wuhan Virus.
There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the virus and its functioning. One thing is for sure if immediate steps are not taken to control its spread, there will be more and more cases leading to an outbreak.
Variant of Concern
WHO declared the Omicron as a variant of concern on 26 November 2021. They were unclear about its transmission and severity. Due to the lack of data, researchers weren’t sure about how it works.
WHO has advised countries to increase the public health measures. It has also asked them to upload recent genome sequences on public platforms to make them available to everyone. Other known initiatives are wearing masks, social distancing, travel bans, and getting vaccinated.
When and Where Was It First Detected?
Omicron virus was first detected in Johannesburg, Gauteng in South Africa. Researchers working on Covid-19 cases found atypical virus strains, having different genome sequences than the other covid variants.
At the start of November, there were less than 1% positive cases. This number was later increased to16% during mid-November. This shows that the virus is spreading at a greater rate than before. WHO has confirmed that the omicron variant has now reached 106 countries.
There is not enough data to confirm the severity of the infection right now. Travel restrictions were imposed, just as the new variant was announced. Some people think it might cause grave economic consequences, as we are not definitive if it is as dangerous as the previous strains.
Some people believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. Immediate action towards the implementation of SOPs should be taken. It is so that the speed of transmission of the virus slows down. Some countries are waiting for more data to be announced before deciding what measures should be adopted. With the holidays around the corner, people are more upset about getting locked up in their homes.
What Are Its Symptoms?
In the original Wuhan virus coughing, loss of taste, loss of smell, fever, and tiredness were the most common symptoms. Diarrhea, sore throat, and headache were the least common symptoms. The most fatal and dangerous one was the shortness of breath.
The Delta variant had almost the same symptoms. Scientists discovered that vaccinated individuals have milder symptoms than non-vaccinated ones. They were either asymptomatic or had a mild cough, common cold, and loss of smell.
It is still too soon to confirm but, scientists have discovered that it has milder symptoms than the other Covid-19 variants. Its symptoms resemble that of common colds. The most common symptoms include muscle fatigue, runny nose, itchy throat, nasal congestion, headache, and sneezing.
Can It Evade Vaccines and Immunity?
The individuals who have had the Coronavirus in the past and recovered developed immunity against it. With the success of vaccination, people were somewhat relieved.
With the Omicron variant, scientists have found that it can evade vaccines and your body’s natural immunity. It increases the risk factor. There are greater chances of reinfection. Imperial College London has estimated that the odds of reinfection with the Omicron variant is 5.4% more than the Delta variant. It is because there have been at least 32 mutations in its spike protein structure. This mutation might be the reason for its capability to elude vaccines.
All this shows that you’re at risk of contacting the virus even if you’re vaccinated or have natural immunity. It is because the Omicron can easily evade vaccination and immunity.
Relation With AIDS
Researchers are now concerned if the saturation of HIV-positive cases in South Africa paved the way for the Omicron variant. HIV lessens immunity in its host. It might have created an ideal environment for the virus to mutate.
Immunocompromised patients with weaker immunity allowed the virus to change its gene sequence. As a result, there have been 50 mutations, at least, recorded in the new variant. Out of which 32 are in the spike protein. The virus uses this protein to attach to the host.
It is possible that the variant was present way before it was identified. It kept evolving. Now, it has reached this vaccine-resistant form which can prove very dangerous to the world.
How it spreads
A study led by Ragon Institute in Cambridge found that the Omicron is twice more infectious than the Delta virus. They also found that it is four times more infectious than the Wuhan virus.
The original virus had an incubation period of about 5-6 days. On the contrary, the Delta variant had an incubation period of 4 days. Omicron changed it with an incubation period of 3 days. The incubation period is the time taken by the virus to show symptoms. It also increases the chances of transmission. Because as soon as the symptoms start to appear, the person becomes contagious.
It is why the Omicron virus has spread to more than 100 countries in such a short time interval.
Can It Be Detected Through PCR Test?
PCR tests have been successful in identifying all the known variants of Covid-19. These tests use different gene targets to find if the virus has any “targeted genes” present in it. Through this procedure, they identify which variant it could be.
There are three genes targeted during a PCR test, Spike S gene, Nucleocapsid N2 gene, and Envelope E gene. If the S gene is absent ( S gene dropout), the virus is most likely to be Omicron. To be entirely sure, gene sequencing should be done.
Risk For The Unvaccinated & Vaccinated People
Until now, there have been reports of mild symptoms in people with the Omicron virus. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is fewer than the previous variants. People who had received the vaccine for COVID were 13 times more likely to be infected by the delta variant than people who had been infected but not vaccinated. This still holds true for Omicron, vaccinated people are more likely to contract and transmit the new variant.
People might mistakenly think the COVID-19 vaccines will completely block infection, but the shots are mainly designed to prevent severe illness. Even double-vaccinated with boosters, individuals are not safe from the risk .
Risk For Pregnant Women
It is not confirmed if Omicron causes more severe symptoms in pregnant women. Pregnant women are already immunocompromised. For non-vaccinated pregnant women, Omicron can prove to be extremely dangerous. It can also cause death in some cases.
Omicron risk accompanying other pregnancy-related complications can easily stress out an expecting mother. It is highly advised for such individuals to take extra care. They should stay indoors to elude the virus for as long as they can.
Risk For Children:
People who are going out in social meetings are most likely to expose themselves to the virus. Children don’t have strong immune systems. Parents need to educate their children about the seriousness of the issue. Teach them about public health measures. Ask them to wash their hands regularly. Keep a close look at your children to prevent them from contacting the virus.
We advocate not to get vaccinated here at Golden Dawn. Moreover, fighting aliments with food. With that in mind;
The first step that one should take is to get vaccinated. Vaccination may save you from more severe symptoms experience. Prevention is to be done at the individual level first. Avoid going to crowded places. Wear a mask when outside. Maintain social distancing.
If not necessary, try to stay home as much as you can. After you come back home, take a shower. If symptoms start to appear, immediately get yourself checked and self-isolate.
Vaccines should be available to everyone. If vaccines are not available to the lower class, they are at a greater possibility of falling prey to the virus. It also allows the virus to mutate and transform into new variants. The countries that have access supply of vaccine doses should provide it to the countries in need.
Omicron to end pandemic?
So far, the virus has not caused any severity. But because it is spreading fast with little to no symptoms, scientists think it might act as a natural vaccine. Over time the virus has evolved into an attenuated or weaker version of oneself. This technique is used in vaccines.
Some may argue that the virus will induce immunity in its host without any harsh consequences. Eventually, the virus will die down, and it will not be as much of a threat.
We have our fingers crossed. Every individual is responsible on their end. We should step forward to do our part in handling a global pandemic. Follow SOPs and save yourself and your family. If you have any of the major symptoms, then make sure to get yourself tested. Consult your doctor and self-isolate. Tell all the people that you have met in the past few days about your symptoms. Ask them to get tested as well.