The new Omicron strain of Covid-19 (B.1.1529) has caused some consternation around the world due to the amount of spike proteins it exhibits when compared to other variants we’ve seen so far.
After the detrimental Delta variant which took the world by storm in the second wave of Covid-19, ‘Omicron’ recently has been declared as the latest ‘variant of concern’ (VOC) by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, there is a mixed reaction in the scientific community about just how worried we should be about the latest strain of Covid-19. Dr Tom Peacock has warned that the variant could be “of real concern” due to the 32 mutations in its spike protein, while Professor Francois Balloux maintains there’s “no reason to get overly concerned.”
SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant
The Omicron variant is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on 24 November 2021.
According to the scientists, this B.1.1.529 ‘Omicron’ variant, is a newly identified strain of Coronavirus with 30 plus different mutations in the Covid-19 spike protein which makes the process of it’s transmission easier. Presence of these multiple mutations on the spike protein facilitates the virus’s entry into the body with more ease making the strain more dangerous. The effects and their impact are still being studied.
Apparently, the variant also seems to possess immunity against the available Covid-19 vaccines, which aggravates the threat.
According to WHO’s official statement, “Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron.”
Here is everything you need to know about the new omicron variant of coronavirus:
Where did omicron originate?
The variant is believed to have originated in southern part of Africa (officially declared by WHO on November 24) and brought on a fresh surge of infections. The WHO said that the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.
Omicron has now been seen in travellers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel as well as in southern Africa.
What makes it dangerous?
Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, according to the WHO. That means people who contracted Covid-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.
What are the possible symptoms?
The symptoms are largely similar with the cases caused by the other variants. The most severe symptoms of this variant include the following.
• Difficulty in breathing / shortness of breath
• Loss of speech or mobility
• Chest pain
While, he common and moderate symptoms include:
• Sore throat
• Aches and pains
• Red or irritated eyes
• Discolouration of fingers and toes
Several medical experts, including many from the World Health Organization(WHO), have requested people to abstain from any unneccessery overreaction and panic as the saliet characteristics and the magnitude of possible threats associated with this news strain are still under investigation.
The global panic
The 27-nation European Union suspended air travel from southern Africa. The United States and Canada too have instituted travel ban on those coming from South Africa.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday.
US Presient Joe Biden said the new variant “should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations”.