Just when we thought that the worst of Covid is behind us with over 51.5 Crore of the Indian population fully vaccinated, a new version of the virus has come up. Known as Omicron Covid, it is a brand-new variant with its origination being tracked down from South Africa.
Days after the South African scientists identified the Omicron variant, the World Health Organization tagged it the “variant of concern,” just like it had once called the Delta Covid variation. And like the last time, researchers across the globe began their race to answer questions like: How effective are the vaccines against Omicron Covid? How infectious is it compared to the previous versions? etc.
Presently, the scientists believe that the Omicron Covid new variant will be at least as contagious as Delta, if not less. However, they are also confident that the vaccines and the same public health measures as before will be able to protect people from severe Omicron Covid virus symptoms.
As a precautionary measure, scientists have also started emphasizing giving booster shots to people to prevent the chance of them getting infected.
What are the different Omicron Covid virus symptoms?
While the research is still underway, what we know so far is that people that have come down from the Omicron Covid cases have fairly mild symptoms. In a recent MMWR report released on December 10th, the details of over 43 omicron cases were listed. In the report it was found that 89% of people reported a cough, 65% reported fatigue and over 59% of them came down with a runny nose and congestion. Only 8% of the 43 people lost their sense of taste and smell – a symptom that affected most of the people in the previous instances of COVID-19 infections.
On a generic level, however, we want to reiterate that it is very early to say with certainty whether Omicron Covid strain symptoms are milder or more severe compared to Delta.
Are vaccines effective against the Omicron Covid19 variant?
The WHO’s chief scientist has stated that the vaccines are very effective in lowering the severity of Omicron Covid19 led death and diseases. They also added that treatments like Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers have been extremely effective in managing patients suffering from severe Omicron Covid effects.
Bharat Biotech has stated that Covaxin, the virion-inactivated vaccine covers the entire virus and can work against the highly mutated new variant.
BioNTech, Pfizer’s co-manufacturer, stated that they are prepared for tweaking and even launching an updated version of the Covid19 mRNA vaccine in only 100 days if the Omicron variant is deemed capable of evading the immunity of jabs.
The leading Covid19 vaccine maker also stated that they are capable of building a booster shot against the new variant.
Johnson & Johnson
The company has already started researching an Omicron-specific vaccine and will go ahead with the development of it if needed.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that runs the development of the Covid19 vaccine Sputnik’s V’s development has also stated that the jab is extremely effective against Omicron Covid transmission, but they are also developing an adapter booster.
The Inovio Pharmaceuticals said that they have already started testing its vaccine INO-480 to evaluate the effectiveness against the new variant. The company also stated that it is designing a new vaccine candidate that is targeting Omicron specifically.
How to protect yourself from the Omicron Covid new variant?
The WHO advises the following steps to protect yourself and prevent Omicron Covid hospitalizations –
- Get vaccinated
- Wear a mask
- Maintain physical distancing
- Ventilate indoor spaces
- Keep good hygiene
- Self-isolate if you develop symptoms.
Answering the frequently asked questions about the Omicron variant
- WHO declared Omicron as a Variant of Concern (VoC). Should we get worried?As per the CDC, the difference in the variant of interest and variant of concern lies in a rise in transmissibility, more severe disease, and a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies. Now while WHO has declared Omicron concerning, the data that we have so far shows that it leads to mild symptoms.
We will have to wait before we get some concrete information.
- What is the meaning of multiple mutations in spike protein?
Spike protein is a compound that allows the virus to enter the host cell and makes it more infectious and transmissible. Now, the more mutations in the spike protein, the more difficult it becomes to track and eliminate the virus.
- Is the Omicron variant more transmissible?
There is no data available to us to confirm that the variant is more transmissible. But considering the spike in a number of Covid19 cases in South Africa, it is being estimated that the variant has a high rate of transmission.
- How different is Omicron compared to Delta?
According to reports, it has been seen that the Omicron Covid19 variant symptoms are fairly mild compared to Delta. The loss of smell and taste which was common in Delta is not seen in this variant.
- Will the vaccines work on the Omicron variant?
As far as we know at the moment, the existing vaccines will work against the Omicron variant. However, scientists and doctors are recommending getting a booster shot. As more time goes by, we will get a concrete answer.
- Is there any age range that Omicron is targeting?
There is no strong evidence to suggest that the variant is targeting any specific age range. However, going by the four cases in India, the age of infected people has been between 33 to 72 years.
Disclaimer: This blog is a result of information collected over the internet. The research on how severe is the Omicron virus is still underway. Talk to a medical practitioner to get answers to your queries.
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