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Everything You Need to Know About Omicron

Everything You Need to Know About Omicron Omicron is the name you might be familiar with by now if you have been following the developments of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first case of Covid-19 was reported first in December 2019 and it has come a long way since then. In the last 2 years, our lives haven’t remained the same. Covid-19 variants have created havoc globally.
The previous variant- delta was considered to be the deadliest among all and caused loss to lives and livelihoods globally, not to mention the impact on mental health of millions of people. The new variant of the Covid-19 virus has been named Omicron- if you have been looking forward to knowing more about it, you are at the right place. Here are 13 things you need to know about the Omicron variant:

1. What is the Omicron Variant?

Omicron is the latest variant of Coronavirus, the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been several mutations of this virus in the past most notably Alpha, Beta, Gama, and Delta; the Delta variant being the deadliest. The world was just recovering from the trauma of the loss of lives and livelihood caused due to the Delta variant and here comes the Omicron variant. There were several other lesser-known variants including Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, and Mu.

2. Where was it first detected and When?

The Omicron variant was first reported from South Africa on November 24th, 2021. The WHO chose to name it after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet, Omicron. The first 12 letters were already used to name the other variants. WHO skipped 2 letters that were preceding Omicron, Nu & Xi. They clarified that ‘Nu’ was skipped as it’s pronounced as ‘New’ and can be easily confused with the latter. The name ‘Xi’ was skipped as it is a common surname in many cultures, including China.

Everything You Need to Know About Omicron 3. What are the symptoms of Omicron variant?

Some of the symptoms of Omicron are similar to the previous variants. The major symptoms are:

- Mild fever

- Fatigue

- Scratchy Throat

- Body Pain

- Headache

- Congestion in chest

- Runny Nose

The list of symptoms doesn’t include loss of smell and taste which was a common symptom with the Delta and other previous variants. The symptoms might be mild and can easily be confused with Flu.

4. What should you do if you feel the symptoms?

If you feel any of the above-mentioned symptoms, immediately isolate yourself, consult your physician. Get tested immediately if the symptoms prolong for more than 3-4 days. Complete isolation is advisable so as to avoid spreading to your loved ones and others.

5. Is it more contagious and transmissible than other variants?

As per the initial data received, Omicron has higher transmissibility than the other variants. According to the initial reports, on average, one person infected with Omicron can infect up to 6 people. The number was believed to be 5 for the Delta variant that caused havoc globally.

Everything You Need to Know About Omicron 6. Is Omicron more dangerous than other variants? What does the data say about the severity?

According to Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in California, USA, “Omicron is less likely to cause severe disease such as pneumonia that may require hospital admission.”

Though the amount of data available to reach any conclusion is very limited as it was first detected only a month ago, the initial data suggests that the symptoms of Omicron variant among the vaccinated people are milder. Until now, it was believed to be a ‘mild’ variant, but the WHO Chief Mr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, on January 7th2021, has warned that though this variant appears to be less severe compared to Delta, dismissing it as ‘mild’ would be a huge mistake. It is advisable to take all the precautions and not let the guard down irrespective of whether you are vaccinated.

7. Are children at higher risk of getting infected with Omicron?

Data speaks for it. The number of cases of Covid in children is surging globally. In the US alone, they saw a 66% rise in hospitalization for the age group of 0-17 during the week that ended on December 28th, 2021. Children are among the most vulnerable set of the population given that in many countries, they haven’t been vaccinated yet.

Among the children under the age of 5, Omicron is detected with a new symptom- Croup, a harsh & barking cough. If you observe any of the symptoms in your child, consult a physician or the health authority in your region immediately.

8. Are the vaccines effective for Omicron?

There is very little data on this end to confirm whether or not the vaccines are effective for Omicron, but the initial reports suggest that the efficacy of vaccines is reducing for the Omicron variant. Though the pharma companies are altering the existing vaccines to make them effective specifically for Omicron, the roll-out might take longer. In over 50 countries, the governments are giving booster doses of the existing vaccines to the public to increase its effectiveness on Omicron.

Everything You Need to Know About Omicron 9. Are unvaccinated people at higher risk?

Absolutely! The symptoms of Omicron are milder among the vaccinated people, but it might get severe among the unvaccinated ones. In severe cases, it might also cause death. Unvaccinated people are at a higher risk, so if you are someone who is unvaccinated, for whatever the reason might be, it is advisable to take the vaccine doses immediately to save your lives, that of your loved ones and others you come in contact with.

10. Can it reinfect the people who were infected with earlier variants?

The reports from many of the countries suggest that the people, who were infected with any of the earlier variants, are susceptible to reinfection from Omicron. So, if you are someone who was infected earlier, it is advisable to take utmost precaution and follow Covid protocols.

11. How many Omicron cases have been detected globally? How many countries have reported Omicron cases?

Since the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa, it has spread rapidly to other countries. By December 3rd, it had spread to 38 countries, 57 countries by Dec 9th, 63 countries by Dec 13th, and it had reached 89 countries by Dec 18th, 2021. Given the alarming rapid rate of transmissibility, WHO has recognized Omicron as the ‘Variant of Concern’.

With respect to the number of cases, it wouldn’t be possible to detect all the Omicron cases as it is practically impossible to send all the samples for genome sequencing. But it is certain that Omicron is responsible for the rapidly rising number of cases.

12. Total number of Covid cases globally currently?

The Total number of Covid cases globally since the pandemic began has shockingly crossed the 300 Million mark, causing more than 5 Million deaths in total.

Finally, How are Governments of various countries reacting to contain the surge?

Governments of all the countries are trying their best to contain the spread of the Omicron variant. From reintroducing the restrictions, rapidly increasing Testing, creating awareness of precautions and protocols, strengthening the healthcare systems, to pacing up the vaccination drives, the Governments are doing all the things in their capacity to reduce the loss of lives and impact on economies and livelihood of the population.

Final Thoughts:

Though Omicron might be regarded as less severe compared to Delta, taking it lightly might be a huge mistake. It is advisable to get vaccinated, follow Covid precautions and protocols, and stay safe. If you have any question that has been unanswered in this article, do let us know in the comments below.

Copyrights © 2024 Inspiration Unlimited eMagazine

Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 21st January 2022.
Kunal Jain
Kunal Jain works as an Outreach Specialist at iU

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