The omicron variant is spreading at an alarmingly high rate both in India and globally. However, the degree to which it affects your lungs is pretty less. Why is that so? Well, this is what we’ll try to answer in the below blog.
Here we’ll discuss why the Omicron is spreading so fast yet not affecting the lungs as much as the previous variants.
Omicron is spreading incredibly quickly as a flash!
Scientists at the University of Hong Kong stated that the Omicron variant spreads approximately 70 times faster than the delta variant in human respiratory tissue.
Omicron also tends to reach higher tissue levels compared to the Delta variant i.e. 48 hours after infection.
The transmission of this new variant is so quick that restrictions and curfew have been imposed in various states with the spike in COVID-19 cases. (For instance- Night ban on movement of people, 50% capacity in offices and restaurants.)
Here’s what Immunologist Garcia-Beltran along with other experts mentioned in their study-“Strikingly, Omicron was 4-fold more infectious than wild type (the original version of the virus) and 2-fold more infectious than Delta.”
Why is Omicron Spreading with Such Speed?
Omicron has impacted/affected almost every country in the world. Experts even say that the impact of the second wave can even be overshadowed by the recent rise in the cases due to the Omicron variant.
But what is the reason behind it? Maria Van Kerkhov, an infectious disease specialist at the World Health Organization, has given three reasons behind the rapid spread of this variant:
- The Omicron variant has taken birth through mutations several times. That is why the biggest quality of the variant is its penetration power into the cells of the body in a quick manner.
- The second reason stated is that the variant has more power. Omicron can easily pass through the immune system of our bodies. It means even if you are double vaccinated, you still can be infected with the Omicron.
- The variant attacks the lungs, the lower respiratory tract. But it spreads the virus on the surface of the respiratory tract. That is why it transmits the infection powerfully and quickly compared to its predecessors.
Is Omicron less harmful than other variants?
It’s true that Omicron certainly does not cause as much damage to the lungs. Data from South Africa says that Omicron might be less dangerous than we think.
Not as contagious as the Delta variant
Inside the lung tissue, Omicron has been reported to be less efficient at infecting cells than delta or the original version of the virus, but the scientific evidence is evolving.
Most of the hospitalized people do not need oxygen support
The Medical Research Council (South Africa) released a report that included the early Omicron cases from various hospitals. The Omicron infected patients were not severely affected.
Caution- “All variants of Covid-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key,” according to the WHO.
No major hike in death rates
A few people developed covid pneumonia, while some needed intensive support and care. The South African authorities have announced that the country has passed the Omicron peak as the cases are rising but without a major hike in the death rates.
Slow growth than other variants
There is also a similar report of the researchers of the University of Hong Kong. The researchers studied the bits of tissue taken from the airways of humans during surgery with a total of twelve lung samples.
They found the Omicron variant grows much slower than the Delta or the other variants did. The researchers also tested it on the bronchi, the tubes in the upper chest. These tubes deliver air from the windpipe to the lungs. Inside these bronchial cells, the Omicron variant grows much faster compared to the other variants.
However, before concluding anything, you should know that there’s a lot of research that is underway. So, you must stay updated with the news and wait until something solid comes up.
Why Does Omicron Variant Not Affect the Lungs?
A Glasgow team has found the answer to why the lungs are not infected with the Omicron variant. According to their study, a protein called TMPRSS2 is found on the lung cells. The protein has helped the previous SARS-COV-2 variants to enter into the lung cells.
However, in the Omicron variant, the protein does not bound strongly. That is why it is tough for it to infect the lung cells.
The reason can also be the answer to why the new variant is so transmissible. As Omicron is more concentrated on the upper airways, there are chances of it getting out of the airways through sneezing, coughing, or breathing out and infecting other people.
But, Do Not Mistake Omicron as ‘Mild’
Even if it seems that this new variant of Covid-19 is less severe, its appearance in vaccinated people is a huge concern.
An increase in coronavirus cases means hospital capacity, ICU beds, oxygen cylinders, and availability of equipment may fall short. And that gives rise to the unpleasant feeling of worry in public.
What Can We Do?
The most effective measure that individuals can take to lessen the spread of Covid-19 is to:
- Maintain physical distance. (At least 1 meter away from others)
- Always wear a clean mask
- Keep your spaces properly ventilated
- Sanitize and clean everything you take with you while you go outside. It will ensure that no germs can at your place harm you or your family in any way.
- Clean your hands. Cough and sneeze safely. (Stuff some extra tissues with you)
- Sanitiser holds more importance than it used to. Carry it wherever you go.
- Continue to take all precautions even after taking both vaccine doses
- Get vaccinated. If there are children at your home (15 years or above), please get them vaccinated too.
- Consult a doctor online if you have symptoms like fever, sore throat, and cough
“We Must Continue To Do It All, Let Us Prepare And Not Panic"
Even though we can say the new Omicron variant is not as dangerous as the older variants, it does not mean we can take it lightly. It has transmissibility which means more and more people will be infected.
There are chances of the hospitals getting overburdened like before. That is why keep yourself self-protected, take all the necessary precautionary measures, and step out only if necessary.