Ever since it was detected in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, affected millions of people globally and witnessed lethal mutants like Delta, claiming millions of lives. It was just when we thought that the COVID-19 is fading away and life is limping back to normalcy, all thanks to vaccinations and strict adherence to Covid protocols, yet another new variant of Omicron, first detected in South Africa brought everything back to a screeching halt.
What Is Omicron?
Omicron is the name designated to the new variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in Botswana and South Africa at the end of November 2021. The scientific terminology is B.1.1.529, and the Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) at World Health Organization gave it the name Omicron as per the nomenclature of COVID-19 variants tagging them with the Greek alphabet.
While it is common for the viruses to undergo frequent alternations even as they mutate, this new variant Omicron, feared for its high rate of transmissibility triggering certain varied symptoms that are different from typical coronavirus signs, has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Variant of Concern (VOC). Initially, Omicron cases were rampant only in African and European nations but as of today, India has recorded more than 37,000 cases with states like Delhi and Maharashtra topping the list.
Why Is Omicron A Variant of Concern and Contagious?
As per the studies conducted by World Health Organization, researchers who discovered this new variant in South Africa and scientists from other countries, Omicron may not be as virulent as delta strain but has 50 mutations with 30 in its spike protein, causing structural modifications which in turn can cause it to overlap with other variants like delta strain.
According to the virologists, Omicron shares certain mutations with delta but also has a few on its own. However, the major concern is that as many as 10 mutations in the receptor-binding domain interacting with the ACE-2 receptor can gain entry into the cells much faster when compared with the delta variant. Thus, a combination of all these mutations can become more transmissible, contagious make more people affected by Coronavirus.
What Are The Symptoms of Omicron?
Well, the symptoms of Omicron are quite like that of other Coronavirus symptoms including cough, sore throat, fever, loss of smell and taste. However, patients are also complaining of severe headache, diarrhea, extreme fatigue which are typical of Omicron. The symptoms can appear anywhere between 2 to 14 days after getting exposed to the virus and patients would generally recover within 2 weeks.
However, those with compromised immunity may take up to 6 weeks to completely recover from this variant and would require close monitoring by expert doctors.
What Are The Chances Of Reinfection In Those Who Had Coronavirus?
As per the cases that are being currently reported in India and abroad, Omicron can affect people who previously had Coronavirus, especially when compared to other variants. So, it is imperative to stay even more cautious and vigilant despite having antibodies against fighting Coronavirus. Remember, even if you have had coronavirus previously that doesn’t make you immune to this new variant.
Do Vaccines Work Against Omicron?
Yes! Vaccination is the first line of defence while combating Coronavirus, irrespective of the variant. The Government of India kickstarted inoculating teenagers from the first week of January while adults above the age of 60, especially with comorbidities who have already received their first two shots are now eligible for booster or precautionary shot.
Even though you are completely vaccinated, (received both doses) do adhere to the strict covid protocols like maintaining social distancing, frequent washing of the hands, wearing masks and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Can A RT-PCR Test Detect Omicron?
RT-PCR tests are accurate and play a pivotal role in detecting the presence of viruses including Omicron.
Do Patients With Omicron Need Hospitalization?
Patients with milder symptoms can quarantine at home, isolate themselves in a room, maintain good personal hygiene besides taking all medication, checking oxygen saturation periodically. However, if severe symptoms like breathlessness, extreme fatigue, delirium persist, get admitted to the hospital for better treatment and faster recovery.
Keep your doctor informed about the progress, to decide upon the further course of treatment.
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