Yes, you have heard it right a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 aka the COVID virus has surfaced and triggered panic across the globe, concerned about the new variant? Here is all that you need to know, mutation is the nature of any virus, and it creates new variants, in the case of COVID we have already seen many such variants as Alpha (B.1.17), Beta (B.1.251), Gama (P.14), Delta (B.1.617.2), etc. Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant is the new mutation in the course of the evolution of the virus.
New Variants are normal
COVID variants will keep coming, the whole world is going through the process of vaccination while some countries have higher vaccination rates some countries are still catching up and less vaccination rate in a community provides the virus favorable condition to evolve and mutate. Omicron is new and scientists are studying the virus to understand factors like Transmissibility, Severity, and Effectiveness of available SARS-CoV-2 injections, with limited knowledge available the recent variant is said to be discovered in Botswana and was firstly reported by the scientists of South Africa on 24th of November and has been categorized as a variant of concern by WHO.
How transmissible is Omicron?
The new variant has already been found in more than 30 countries across the globe including the USA, Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, etc. India has also reported two cases of infection and many are suspected to be positive with the Omicron variant. Scientists suggest that the new variant named B.1.1.529 has more than 50 mutations and among those 32 mutations are on the spike protein (spike protein helps the virus in entering the human body) compared to 9 mutations in the spike protein of the Delta variant which was seen as the reason behind the second wave of COVID in India. Some preliminary studies show that the Omicron variant can be 500 times more transmissible than the original Wuhan variant.
Symptoms of infection with Omicron Variant
With the limited information available Omicron is said to be infectious to all age groups and can be detected by RT-PCR test and genome sequencing of the sample.
Symptoms such as,
- Extreme tiredness
- Mild muscle pain
- Dry cough
- Scratchy throat
has been reported by patients so far and unlike previous dominant Delta variant extreme drop in the Oxygen level has not been reported so far, there are very few patients who have experienced high temperatures and the majority of the patients are recovering and have not required hospitalization.
Precautions for The Omicron variant
This new variant is still new and studies are underway to understand more about the virus, though one should understand the seriousness and follow all required precautions and maintain Covid appropriate behavior by
- Avoiding unnecessary travel
- Maintaining social distancing
- Always wearing a mask when outside
- Washing hand with soap and using sanitizer at regular intervals,
- Get tested if symptoms appear and get fully vaccinated.
Some scientists also suggest that COVID can become an endemic like other diseases such as smallpox or polio or common flu though more transmissible variants would be less deadly and vaccine boosters can be developed for coming mutations.