The latest variant of the infamous COVID-19 virus has finally hit the world.
But how is this variant different from the previous (delta) one? Is there anything to be worried about? Well, if you have such questions in your mind, you’ve come to the right place.
This blog will be all about the Omicron variant. We’ll talk about what it is, its mutation, its symptoms, and things to be worried about if any.
Table of contents
- What do we know so far about Omicron?
- What mutations are specific to this variant?
- Are there any new symptoms?
- Should you be worried about the Omicron variant?
- What do we need to do?
- What’s the update about the Omicron variant in India?
What do we know so far about Omicron?
The Omicron or the new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified by scientists in South Africa on 24th November. The WHO has labeled this variant as VOC or a variant of concern. VOC means a variant that has a higher chance of spreading in humans.
The cases of the Omicron virus have been detected in over 30 countries, including:
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
According to the available evidence, the Omicron variant seems to be more transmissible as compared to the Delta variant. It’s because Omicron has an enhanced immune escape potential that gives it an advantage over the delta Variant.
However, there’s one good news too. The omicron variant can be easily detected by a particular PCR assay. It simply means the diagnostic labs can identify this variant more quickly. And this will help doctors take early measures to protect the patient from complications.
What mutations are specific to this variant?
Before we talk about what mutations are specific to Omicron, you must know what a mutation is.
Variants or mutations in SARS-CoV-2 are common. When a virus spreads, it infects the host cells and instructs them to replicate and infect more healthy cells. This process of rapid multiplication of genetic material often leads to random DNA errors, which we call mutations.
Most mutations aren’t viable for the virus itself. Most of the time, the virus gets harmed because of the mutation. However, the new mutation/variant sometimes makes the virus more dangerous than the existing one which might be the case with omicron.
Now coming to the mutations, the Omicron is characterized by about 30 mutations. There are three small deletions and a small insertion in the spike protein. Spikes present on the outer part of the virus help the virus to enter the cells.
Out of the total spikes present, 15 spikes help the virus bind to the host receptor. These spikes belong to the receptor-binding domain.
The above description may sound a bit complex. So, in layman’s terms, the Omicron comes with mutations that help in the quicker transmission of the virus.
Are there any new symptoms?
As of now, there isn’t any data stating different symptoms of the omicron variant from the previous ones. Also, as per the studies conducted in South Africa, no unusual symptoms have been reported. Furthermore, some patients who were infected were asymptomatic, just like the previous variant.
All in all, there aren’t any symptoms released by a medical body that you need to look for. However, if you find any symptoms of the delta variant, such as a runny nose, sore throat, headache, make sure to get yourself tested.
Should you be worried about the Omicron variant?
The omicron variant has a better immune escape potential and increased transmissibility compared to the delta variant. It simply means this variant can easily surpass our immune system and can infect more people easily.
Also, according to the early evidence, people who contracted COVID-19 previously can be reinfected with the new variant more easily.
All this information states that we should be careful about this variant. However, a lot of research is underway. Experts are working at a record speed to gain deeper insights into this virus. So, claiming anything right now would not be appropriate.
You can stay tuned to the news and wait for the government’s updates on this variant. Also, you can take some precautions as listed below.
What do we need to do?
No government guidelines have yet been released in regards to the omicron variant. However, by understanding the previous variants, you can take the necessary precautions, which are:
- Wear a mask when you go outside. Also, remove and wear the mask with clean hands.
- Wash your hands with soap frequently.
- Always maintain a social distance of about 1 meter.
- Avoid visiting overcrowded or poorly ventilated places.
- Always ensure proper ventilation inside your home by keeping the windows open.
- Follow the guidelines when the government releases them.
- Take both doses of WHO approved COVID-19 vaccine to ensure better protection.
If you take the above precautions, you might be able to avoid the new variant. However, make sure to follow the news and stay updated with the latest info.
What’s the update about the Omicron variant in India?
India reported the first two cases from Karnataka on 2nd December. One was a South African National who left the country, and the other was a Bengaluru doctor with absolutely no travel history. Both these men were fully vaccinated.
The government upped the testing and contact tracing after this incident, and Karnataka has been put on high alert. All this is being done to prevent transmission.
As of 19th January 2022, the count of Omicron cases is more than 8,960 in India.
Mutations in viruses are a common phenomenon. While most aren’t risky for humans, some can still pose a threat. However, as there’s a lot of research underway, you must not panic or get worried.
The government is likely to release some guidelines as soon as the scientists and medical experts have solid information at hand. Till then, you should stay tuned with the news and take the necessary precautions and stay at home. Also, make sure to take both the vaccine doses and a booster shot if necessary.