The world is believing that COVID-19 was about to end but at the end of 2021, the virus struck back with a new variant Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529. This new variant had reignited the speculations over the emergence of a third COVID-19 wave in India, which could have completely disrupted life. Based on the research, this covid-19 variant has a high number of spike mutations than the previous Coronavirus variations.
What is Omicron Variant?
The Omicron variant has made its entry in India, and daily we are witnessing an exponential rise in the number of cases in India. It originated from South Africa and has officially been identified in Botswana. The new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported to the WHO on November 24, 2021. The variant was detected in the specimen collected on November 11 in Botswana and on November 14 in South Africa. Soon after receiving the report, WHO classified Omicron as a variant of concern (VOC) on November 26, followed by the United States on November 30. On December 2, India registered its first two cases of this variant.
Is Omicron a variant of concern (VOC)?
Spike proteins present in the membrane of the SARS-CoV-2 virus make it penetrate human cells and spread infection. B.1.1.529 strain has 32 mutations, making the attachment of the coronavirus spike protein to human cells easier. Scientists believe that this can increase the transmissibility of the variant but do not confirm its virulence and transmissibility.
What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?
- Experts say the Delta Omicronvariant shares some symptoms with other COVID-19 variants, especially those affecting the upper respiratory system
- They say fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, headache, and sore throat are among the common symptoms. So are muscle aches
- However, people who diagnosed with Omicron Delta so far don’t report a significant loss of taste and smell
- Experts say Omicron symptoms appear to be relatively mild so far, particularly for people who took the vaccine
Who is at high risk?
WHO says, people who have a history of coronavirus attacks are at high risk. Follow these 9 powerful ways to stay safe from Corona Virus. Scientists also believe that due to a high number of mutations, people with chronic infections or those in an immunocompromised state are more likely to contract this variant infection.
Can a normal RT-PCR test detect the Omicron?
Similar to the Alpha variant, Omicron also has many mutations. An RT-PCR test successfully detects the alpha variant which as per scientists, could be a strong indication that an RT-PCR test is also capable of detecting the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, it is necessary to change the gene sequencing for different variants while conducting the test.
Are vaccines effective against the Omicron variant?
Studies define the effectiveness of COVID vaccines and other countermeasures like steroids and emergency medications against the Omicron CMC 356. Vaccines reduce the impact of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with COVID-19 and Omicron. But, the WHO recommends everyone to take vaccines as they greatly reduce severe complications and deaths associated with SARS-CoV-2 and other variants.
Can we detect the Omicron with COVID-19 self-test kits?
As per US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in their preliminary research, the self-test kits can detect COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant. But the tests have reduced the sensitivity when it comes to detecting this variant. The bottom line is the tests still detect Covid-19 whether it is delta or alpha or omicron.
- Maintain physical distance
- If you come across somebody with symptoms of Covid, ensure not to go close to them
- Stay in open, well-ventilated spaces over closed ones
- Regularly wash your hands
- Wash your hands well – at least for 20 seconds. Not just the front and back of the palms don’t forget to clean in between the fingers, the nails
- Always wear a mask (Prefer a disposable face mask, so that you can dump it after usage)
- Get fully vaccinated
- Boost your immunity through natural foods and a healthy lifestyle
- Don’t go outside when you feel unwell. Unless no other choice, stay home
The best way to stay safe from any variant is to take vaccines & avoid going outside unless it is urgent. Always follow COVID guidelines and take extreme precautions like wearing a face mask, and maintaining a physical distance.