Covid-19: FAQs on SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron


WHO designated variant B.1.1.529, named Omicron, a variant of concern, on 26 November 2021. This finding was established on the proof submitted to the TAG-VE that Omicron has various mutations impacting its behaviour, for instance, the efficiency with which it spreads or the harshness of sickness it causes.

 Transmissibility: It is still not clear if Omicron is more contagious (i.e., if it spreads more easily from one person to another) wrt to other variants, like the Delta variant. The number of individuals testing positive has increased in regions of South Africa, but investigations are still taking place to comprehend if it is because of Omicron or any other factor.

The severity of infection: It is not yet evident if illness with Omicron is more severe as compared to variants, including Delta. Initial reports suggest that there is a rise in no. of hospitalisation in South Africa, but this could be because of the overall increase in the number of people becoming contaminated rather than a result of a specific infection with Omicron. There is presently no data to indicate that signs linked to Omicron are diverse as compared to other variants. Originally reported conditions were found amongst university students—younger individuals who manage to have a more mild condition—but comprehending the status of the severity of the Omicron variants. All COVID-19 variants, like the Delta variant that is prevalent around the globe, can cause severe conditions, particularly for very vulnerable people.

Effectiveness of primary SARS-CoV-2 infection 

Initial proof indicates there might be a risen hazard of reinfection with Omicron (implying the people who have once had COVID-19 have a more chance of reinfection with Omicron), comparatively, but still, the data is limited. More details on this will become public in the near future.

Efficacy of the vaccines: WHO is functioning with technical partners to comprehend the possible impact of this variant on our current vaccines. Vaccines are crucial in reducing intense disease and death. Existing vaccines are effective against painful disease and death.

Effectiveness of existing tests: The globally used PCR tests persist in detecting the disease, including conditions for Omicron, as we have seen with other variants too. Studies are still determining if there is any effect on other kinds of tests, like the rapid antigen detection test.

The usefulness of existing treatments: IL6 Receptor Blockers and Corticosteroids will still be useful for handling patients with extreme COVID-19 conditions. Other treatments will be tested to determine the effectiveness on the Omicron variant virus.

Studies underway

Currently, WHO is corresponding with a considerable number of experts globally to understand Omicron adequately. Studies are in the way that will give a right picture of transmissibility, the performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, the severity of the infection and the efficacy of treatments.

WHO prompts countries to contribute to the research and share data of the hospitalised patient to depict the study rapidly.

More data will arise in the future. WHO’s TAG-VE will resume observing and assessing the data about mutations in Omicron.

Recommended actions for the nations

Omicron is a Variant of Concern, so there are several steps WHO recommends nations to follow, like enriching surveillance and counting cases; determining genome series on public databases, like GISAID; conducting field examinations and laboratory checks to comprehend better if Omicron has additional transmission or disease traits, or affects the efficacy of vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics or public health and social standards.

Governments should persist in implementing adequate public health efforts to decrease COVID-19 contamination, utilising analysis of the risks and a science-based policyThey should raise a few public health and medical capabilities to handle an upsurge in cases. WHO is giving nations the support and advice for both readiness and response.

What makes Omicron a more significant problem? Do more mutations signify a more intense virus?

According to DR SHAHID JAMEEL, the worrying part is that most mutations are in this variant. It has also generated a remarkable growth in infections, in the places it happened, in southern Africa. But we don’t understand whether it induces intense disease or avoids vaccine/infection immunity. Data indicates that Omicron may be more contagious than Delta variant, but this data comes from one area. We don’t know if the same will occur in other regions of the globe.

What are the signs? Does Omicron appreciate natural immunity?

According to DR S SWAMINATHAN, the studies are in progress. It appears that most people are getting small infections, but hospitalisations are also increasing very quickly. Lesser people report fever; more individuals have unique symptoms such as headache, body ache and fatigue. Vaccine immunity stays convincing; at least it’s possible to control the severe illness.

The face mask protocol

✥ Regular touching the mask will keep you weak

✥ Remember, this variant spreads much more rapidly

✥ The masks must be layered one and must hug your face properly

✥ There must be no space for the air to escape. If that suggests obtaining one custom-made, do that.

✥ The fit has to be relaxing

✥ They must be tested with a certification regulation

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