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All About Omicron

Medikoe Wellness Expert

Medikoe Wellness Expert

  80 feet road indira nagar, Bengaluru     Jan 4, 2022

   7 min     

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Overview

Coronavirus has led to a loss of human life worldwide and has been a great challenge to public health.

As people began to feel some hope—or cautious optimism—early this summer that the pandemic hopefully wouldn't recede, there was still the threat that new mutations of the COVID-19 virus could relapse. This time, it might be even worse. 

Delta variant surfaced then surfaced in the United States. It was first identified in India in late 2020 and swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain before reaching the U.S., where it quickly surged. 

Unvaccinated people are most at risk, and severe outcomes happen in places with low vaccination rates. 

Some experts said, "All viruses evolve and undergo changes as they spread and replicate". And so did we encounter the new variant Omicron recently.

What is the new Omicron variant? 

The Omicron is a variant of COVID-19, and WHO has called this a variant of concern, based on the evidence that it has multiple mutations that may impact how it behaves. There is still uncertainty regarding Omicron, and a lot of research is underway to evaluate its transmissibility, severity and reinfection risk.

Another name for Omicron

Formally known as B.1.1.529, the World Health Organisation designated it as a Variant of Concern, indicating it is likely to be highly transmissible and potentially replace the dominant Delta variant

Where did the Omicron Virus originate from?

The Origin of the Omicron Virus is said to be from South Africa. Officials in South Africa first reported Omicron to the WHO on November 24, after which there was a sharp increase in cases in Gauteng province in the previous weeks. According to a WHO statement, the first known and confirmed infection with Omicron was from a sample taken on November 9. Now, the number of Omicron cases have been rising across South Africa. 

Soon after the delta variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) named a new coronavirus variant "Omicron". It was designated as a "variant of concern." 

According to NPR, though South Africa was the first to report Omicron to the WHO, it's unclear what country the variant emerged from.

The real question is, what makes the Omicron variant different, and why are scientists worried about it? This variant is concerning because it has only been recently identified; there's a lot we don't know about it.

Omicron and its mutation

Scientists are perturbed that Omicron has a very high number of mutations, many of them in genes that code for the spike protein, which the coronavirus uses to latch onto and invade human cells. Early studies suggest that people who previously recovered from COVID-19 may have a higher risk of reinfection.

Omicron has more than 30 mutations in the genes that code for the spike protein, according to Nature. Of these mutations, ten are in the part of the spike protein that latches onto human cells, according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, other mutations, some of which were previously found in past variants, are "concerning" and could be linked to higher transmissibility or help the virus evade immune defences, according to a technical brief released by the WHO on November 28.

Are the symptoms of Omicron any different?

No information suggests that Omicron causes different COVID-19 symptoms from other COVID-19 variants.

The most common symptoms of Omicron are fever, cough, tiredness, loss of taste or smell.

Omicron cases in India

Omicron has been detected in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and Union Territories of Delhi and Chandigarh

101 Omicron cases across 11 states, declares the Health Ministry. 

Omicron in Maharashtra

Maharashtra, by far, has reported the highest number of Omicron cases in the country, prompting vigilance and screening to be stepped up at the Mumbai international airport and the airports in Pune and Nagpur.

Most cases were reported in Mumbai (13), followed by Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune (10).

Omicron cases in India 2021

On Friday, the Health Ministry said that 101 cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 infection had been recorded across 11 states. Briefing the media, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agrawal said, "Omicron variant reported in 91 countries in the world. WHO has said that Omicron spreads faster than the Delta variant in South Africa, with low Delta circulation. spreads likely outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs, WHO added."

Warning against lowering the guard to prevent the disease, ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava said, "This is the time to avoid mass gatherings and non-essential travel; it is essential to observe low-intensity festivities."

How many variants does coronavirus have?

Variants of viruses occur when the virus's genes mutate.

Mutations in viruses, including the coronavirus — are neither new nor unexpected.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that caused COVID-19 has mutated, resulting in different virus variants. One of these variants is called delta. The delta variant appears to pass on more easily from one person to another.

Hence it is considered a "variant of concern" by the WHO and CDC.

What precautions can be taken to tackle Omicron:

The salient step to take is to limit your exposure to the virus. To protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure to: 

Take precautionary steps, same as before. It is essential to wear a mask, take both doses of the vaccine (if not yet vaccinated), maintain social distance and maintain good ventilation as much as possible.

Wash your hands regularly.  

When it's your turn, get vaccinated. WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.  

Omicron virus vs Covishield

When the world is scared of the new COVID variant Omicron, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the efficacy of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the Omicron variant will be known in the next 2-3 weeks from the outbreak. 

Poonawalla said that the seriousness of Omicron cannot be judged right now. However, he added that a booster shot could be considered. 

The statement came from Poonawala after the Lancet's study found that COVESHIELD was highly effective in dealing with the virus even during the delta outbreak. The chances of hospitalization and death were significantly reduced.

Poonawalla also said that the Oxford scientists are engaged in research on the Omicron virus, and based on their findings, we can come up with a new vaccine, which can be introduced as a booster dose in the coming six months.

However, he said that the effectiveness of COVISHIELD doesn't need to decrease over time. He emphasized that everyone should be given both doses of the COVID vaccine. "Only after this, next year, can we think of giving a booster dose to increase immunity," he said.

Poonawala said the company has enough doses on the booster dose, and they will be available at the same price. He stated that a good proportion of the population had contracted Covid, and the vaccines are providing additional protection.

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Tags:  virus,covid, omnicron

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