A newer variant of SARS-CoV-2 designated as B.1.1.529 was reported to the World Health Organization or WHO on 24th November 2021. This newer variant was first of all detected in collected specimens on 11th November, 2021 in Botswana and 14th November, 2021 in South Africa.
On 26th November 2021, WHO designated it as B.1.1.529 (Omicron) and classified it as a “Variant of Concern”. On 30th November 2021, the United States (US) also designated “Omicron” as a “Variant of Concern” and on 1st December 2021, the first confirmation of Omicron in the United States was identified.
Center for Disease Control has collaborated globally with public health and industry partners towards learning about Omicron. More recently, the CDC has continued to monitor the course of the disease. The CDC has made use of genomic surveillance throughout the course or duration of this pandemic for tracking various variants of SARS-CoV-2, a virus that is responsible for causing COVID-19. It acts by constantly informing public health care practices. Omicron is a newly discovered variant that confuses because of this lack of clarity. Experts are still unsure about its speed, extensiveness of severances, and the efficiency of current medicines.
What are the previously known COVID-19 variants?
Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disease, numerous COVID-19 variants have been shown to emerge. SARS-CoV-2 has continued to undergo mutation along with evolution. At the same time, due to genetic mutations in its “delta” variant, its transmissibility or speed of spread may be more rapid or transmissible. Thus, making it more contagious when compared to the original type of “SARS-CoV-2” that was discovered in December 2019.
The “SIG Variant” classification system has defined four categories of variants of SARS-CoV-2:
- (a) The omicron variant is a B.1.351 and its descendent lineages strain and encompasses 1.617.3, Mu, and Zeta strains.
- (b) Variant of Interest or VOI
- (c) Variant of Concern or VOC
- (d) Delta (B.1.617.2 and AY variants)
- (e) the newly discovered, Omicron (B.1.1.529 variant) and
- (f) Variant of High Consequence or VOHC: Till now, no variants have been discovered under this category.
Newer SARS-CoV-2 variants are constantly seen to emerge. Hence, a better system of surveillance may be able to identify more such strains or variants. Most of the newer variants have been demonstrated to fade away. These include a few of the earlier variants that were considered Variants of interest or VOI. It has been hypothesized that if B.1.1.529 variant has enough transmissibility for outcompeting pre-existing Delta variant, there is a possibility that it may disappear similarly.
How is Omicron different from other COVID19 variants?
The B.1.1.529 has been discovered as having a total of 32 genetic mutations in its genetic structure that is responsible for the “Corona-virus spike protein” when compared with the original SARS-CoV-2 strain that was first of all identified in Wuhan city located in China. Most of these genomic mutations are present in numerous other Variants of Concerns that include the Delta variant, however, most of the other strains may not exhibit.
It has been postulated that by looking at the large numbers of genetic mutations that have accumulated in a single episode of burst, this variant has been thought to have undergone evolution during chronic infectivity of an immune-compromised subject, most probably within an untreated HIV or AIDS patient.
A few of the genetic mutations that are found in various other Variants of Concern may include an “N501Y” mutation that helps in improvement in spike protein binding with other cellular receptors along with a “D614G mutation” that has been considered to increase replication of the virus. Both of these mutations are capable of making this virus greatly contagious. Other mutations include K417N and T478K types of mutations in their genetic structure. These mutations might help this virus avoid host-neutralizing antibodies that are generated either through vaccination or a previous COVID-19 infection.
What are the earlier symptoms of COVID19 and how is Omicron different now?
There is no information to suggest that Omicron causes different COVID-19 symptoms from other COVID-19 variants. It is not currently known if the Omicron variant is more or less severe than other strains of COVID-19, including Delta. Studies are ongoing and this information will be updated as it becomes available.
It is important to remember that all the variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, that is why preventing the spread of this virus and reducing your risk of exposure to the virus is so important.
Omicron is an emerging SARS-CoV-2 variant that has recently been found in Iraq. However, little is known about the severity of illness and death it causes when compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
How can Omicron transmission be stopped or slowed down?
When the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issues recommendations regarding wearing a mouth mask in public, they use the Greek letter omega. This is considered an advisory and not a necessary action. It’s important to be aware of what areas are considered high-risk, but it’s also important to take into account your circumstances and how you’re affected.
Omicron is a virus-killing machine that kills any virus it encounters. It also has the feature to mutate viruses, which gives every infection found a greater chance of spreading.
Newer variants of SARS-CoV-2 such as the Omicron continuously remind us that this pandemic is still ravaging the population. Therefore, all individuals must get vaccinated along with the continuation of preventive measures against the spreading of this virus. These include maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks, regularly washing hands, and maintaining proper ventilation of indoor and closed areas.
There are various “Self-tests” that may be done within homes and are easy to perform thus producing quick results. If you’ve taken a self-test and it has given a “positive result,” it’s best to stay home or wear a mask if you have any contact with other people. If you have any questions about your self-test results, call your healthcare provider or the department of public health. Till there is complete information concerning the risk of Omicron virus, it’s important to continue making use of protective measures.
Currently, all vaccines are capable of protecting against severe types of illness, hospitalization, and death. Although, the occurrence of breakthrough infections in people who have been completely vaccinated may occur. Hence, continued use of protective measures is still required. Visit Centric Healthcare for more health-related blogs.