Omicron COVID Variant – Learn more about the novel coronavirus strain

What is the Omicron COVID-19 Variant?

Omicron is a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) mutant identified by South African scientists in November 2021. This new variant is said to be responsible for the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in the region and now around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) gave this new B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 a Greek letter name, “omicronon November 26, 2021. The WHO labeled Omicron a “variant of concern” (VOC), a classification the Global Health Agency has given to only four other variants to date.

The WHO also warned that this new variant could cause a new wave of infections worldwide. Many countries, including India, have tightened travel restrictions in response.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in India, Omicron is a very diverse variant with a very unusual constellation of mutations that make it more transmissible and thus can have serious public health implications.

Where does the Omicron variant come from and where is it confirmed?

While it is still unclear where Omicron (B.1.1.529) first originated, South African scientists first alerted WHO, and as of December 20, it has been observed in more than 89 countries.

The highest number of cases of Omicron have been reported in Southern Africa, Europe and the UK.

More than 150 cases of Omicron have been reported from India from various states and cities.

What are the symptoms of Omicron variant infection?

The infection symptoms of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant are similar to those of the Delta variant infection. Those infected with the Omicron variant may develop one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Sore throat or scratchy throat
  2. extreme fatigue
  3. A fever
  4. dry cough
  5. skin rash
  6. Loss of smell or taste
  7. Breathlessness
  8. Decrease oxygen saturation levels

But there are cases when people infected with this infection are also asymptomatic.

Why is Omicron a variant of concern (VOC) of the WHO?

The WHO labeled Omicron (B.1.1.529) as a ‘variant of concern’, following the advice of its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). It is based on the evidence from TAG-VE that the variant B.1.1.529 has many mutations that can affect how it behaves, for example how easily it spreads or the severity of the infection it causes.

Medical experts believe that proper use of masks and effective social distancing measures are necessary to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Why is Omicron VOC considered high risk?

With more than 30 spike mutations (double the number carried by the Delta variant) that can provide immune escape potential and high transmissibility, the COVID Omicron variant poses a “very high” global risk and, according to the WHO likely spread further.

The global health agency further warned that the rise in COVID-19 infections caused by this worrisome variant (VOC) could have serious consequences depending on a number of factors, including the areas it could spread. This variant appears to have a much higher chance of infecting others, as much as 70 times more than the delta variant. The number of cases seems to double every 1.5 to 3 days.

What is the treatment protocol for Omicron?

In the wake of the emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus in India, experts in the country say no change is needed in clinical protocol and home care. The treatment protocols for COVID-19 and Delta variant apply.

While home care will play an important role in a milder clinical presentation, Apollo Hospitals is following the following COVID-19 screening and treatment protocol:

treatment protocol for omicron

What is the effectiveness of previous tests, vaccines and treatments?

Vaccine effectiveness: While vaccination remains critical, it is still unclear how jabs will work against the new Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant. It is still being investigated whether the Omicron variant of the virus will be resistant to vaccines. Preliminary reports show that some of the COVID vaccines may not be fully effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.

However, experts say that even if the variant limits vaccine effectiveness, it is unlikely to completely undermine the protection provided by the vaccines. In short, vaccines are crucial to reduce serious illness and mortality.

Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests will continue to detect COVID-19 infection, including the Omicron infection, which is also seen in other variants. Studies are ongoing to determine if there is any impact on other types of tests, such as the rapid antigen detection tests.

Effectiveness of current treatments: According to the WHO, other treatments are currently being studied to understand whether they are still as effective given the changes in parts of the virus in this new variant. Antivirals like Remdesvir, monoclonal antibody treatment, corticosteroids can still be effective to treat patients with severe COVID-19 infection.

Does the Omicron re-infect people who have previously had a COVID-19 infection?

Preliminary data shows an increased risk of reinfection, even if someone has had COVID-19 before.

Does the Omicron variant cause a more serious disease?

Preliminary data from South Africa shows that hospital admissions are rising among those infected with an Omicron COVID-19 infection. But so far there is no evidence that infection with this new strain is directly related to an increased need for hospitalization. The WHO says the increase in hospitalizations may be due to a general increase in infections.

With limited data now available, it could probably take a few weeks to find out if the Omicron variant is causing more serious illness in the general public.

Are children at risk of becoming infected with the new strain?

While there are no reports of serious illness in children, the South Africa-based National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported that children under the age of 2 accounted for about 10 percent of total hospital admissions in South Africa’s Tshwane – the epicenter. of the infections caused by the Omicron variant

What precautions can be taken to protect against the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529)?

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is:

  1. Maintain social distance (stay at least 1 meter from others)
  2. Wear a well-fitting mask
  3. Wash or disinfect hands and surfaces regularly
  4. Avoid crowded places
  5. Avoid poorly ventilated places (open windows to improve ventilation in shared areas)
  6. Practice respiratory hygiene (cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or handkerchief)
  7. Get vaccinated (when it’s your turn)

Studies underway

According to WHO, South African researchers and researchers from around the world are conducting studies to better understand the numerous aspects of Omicron. The number of people testing positive has grown in South African areas affected by this variant. However, epidemiological studies are underway to understand whether this is due to Omicron or other factors.

In addition, the Who also says that while preliminary data points to increasing hospital admissions in South Africa, this may be due to an increase in the overall number of people becoming infected, rather than the result of a specific infection with the Omicron variant.

We will update and continue to share new findings as they become available.

Conclusion

The emergence of this new Omicron variant demonstrates once again that the pandemic is far from over and that appropriate COVID-19 behavior is critical to breaking the chain of transmission. While more time is needed to understand the new variant, medical experts believe the use of proper masks, proper ventilation in all shared areas, and effective social distancing measures are necessary. In addition, be vigilant but don’t panic and get tested if you get sick. It is also safe to get tested if you have traveled recently.

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