Health

What we know about the Omicron variant

In early November 2021, scientists discovered the ommicron variant of the new Coronavirus in South Africa and Botswana. By the end of the month, it was the dominant species in the region, with cases quickly appearing in England, Hong Kong, Italy, Belgium and Israel.

By mid-December, the ommicron variety had spread to the Americas and Australia. While another variant on top of the recent increase in delta is drastically affecting the strategy for living with COVID-19, it is normal for viruses to mutate in this way. Some fade quickly, while others, such as omicron, become a variant of concern and deserve more attention.

replication

Like all variants of the coronavirus, ommicron is the result of: errors in viral replication. The coronavirus gets its name from its low protein spikes, called a corona. It uses these spikes as keys to enter our cells. The spikes make contact with receptors on the cell surface, enter the cell and begin to replicate. When a virus multiplies, it usually makes an exact copy of itself, but this is not always the case.

digital illustration of the virus replication process

Mutations

When a virus multiplies, the makes errors that cause mutations. Sometimes these mutations have little or no effect. Other times, they take advantage of the virus. As more errors occur and the virus continues to multiply, the mutations add up, changing the way the virus behaves.

Omicron is relatively new and scientists are actively studying it to find out more. so far, Research shows that the mutations present in ommicron can benefit the virus in multiple ways. It turns out to be significantly more contagious than delta, which was twice as contagious as the original virus. Omicron may be able to evade antibodies obtained from a previous infection, vaccination, or antibody treatment, although more research is needed to confirm this.

Similar Symptoms

According to the World Health Organization, there is currently no information to suggest that omicron’s symptoms are different or more severe. One reason for this is that many of the early reported cases were in college students, who generally have milder symptoms and are not a population at risk.

Early data also show that hospitalizations in South America increased after the ommicron variant began circulating. But researchers don’t know if this is because of its increased severity or because ommicron is spreading so quickly that more people are getting sick. The ommicron variant can cause the same symptoms if other variants, including headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and sore throat.

sick man blows nose on the couch

New symptoms

Researchers are just beginning to understand the ommicron variant. While many symptoms overlap with delta and earlier variants, most early cases reported in South Africa had mild symptoms, including: severe fatigue without loss of smell or taste.

Because early cases mainly occurred in college students, researchers don’t fully understand how omicron will affect other populations, including the elderly and those with immunosuppression.

exhausted woman sleeping at desk

Prognosis

It’s too early to say how the prognosis for ommicron differs from delta or any other coronavirus variant. early Research shows that Omicron infections in South Africa doubled from 3.2 to 3.6 days during the four weeks ending December 5, 2021, indicating it is significantly more transmissible.

Another study in Hong-Kong indicates that omicron replicated 70 times faster than delta in tissues of the passages that carry air to the lungs. This same study showed it multiplied ten times less efficient in lung tissue, which may indicate that it will be less severe.

doctor talking to elderly couple in hospital

Vaccine Efficacy

Some vaccines to appear nasty stay effective in the prevention of severe disease of the ommicron variant, although breakthrough infections — infections in vaccinated people — are expected. It’s too early to say.
Research indicates that because omicron has so many mutations, it probably evades antibodies. Because the mRNA vaccines elicit a T-cell response, they are still likely to prevent serious infection. Preliminary data shows that unvaccinated people are still at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill.

Middle-aged man gets vaccine shot in arm

Other variants

There are a lot other coronavirus variants. So far, omicron is the most contagious, surpassing delta, although it remains to be seen whether it is more deadly. New variants are concerning because they mean the virus is changing, and there’s a lot we don’t know.

It is important to remember that being more lethal is not beneficial for the virus. A virus that kills its host cannot spread, so new variants aren’t necessarily more serious, but that doesn’t make them any less of a concern.

gloved hand with bottle with the text delta variant

Variants of interest

variants by interest have genetic markers that indicate that they can affect the body in a different way than previous variants. When this happens, treatments may be less effective and the virus may be more serious or contagious.

When health officials identify an interesting variant, they take a closer look at the variant to see if established vaccines and treatments remain effective.

digital illustration of viruses

Variants of Concert

The ommicron variant is classified as a variant by concern. It has been shown to be more transferable. Health officials are now trying to determine if it is also more serious and if current vaccines and treatments are still effective.

This classification means health officials can take more action to slow the spread or increase testing and explore new treatment options if needed.

digital illustration of viruses

Controlling variants

The more infections there are, the Lake probably the coronavirus mutates. With each mutation, the virus can become more transmissible or more serious.

The delta variant caused a huge worldwide increase and ommicron could do the same. The first reported case in the US was on December 1, 2021, and just a few weeks later there were cases in almost every state.

The best way to stop the spread is through vaccination and other measures, such as masking, hand washing and social distancing.

people queuing social distance of one and a half meters