On December 31st, 2019 the world changed when China informed the World Health Organization about a novel virus in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province. The genetic sequence of this virus was released on January 12 and human transmission to health care workers was confirmed on January 20.
Later the virus was named Covid-19 which when expanded is Coronavirus Disease-2019. It was observed that the virus was similar to pneumonia and could spread quickly. In the year 2020, we faced the real impact of this disease throughout the world. Over 52 lakh people died in the pandemic and still, there is no sign of hope for an end.
Recently after the outbreak of Alpha, Delta, and Gamma variants of Covid-19 there is a new variant in the market, named the Omicron variant. We know that the mutation for a virus is normal even though people are worried about the outbreak of this new variant, governments across the world have gone into panic mode. To know the reason keep on reading the article Top 10 Things About The Omicron Variant
1. What is a Variant? Types of Varaints
The word Variant is generally used to denote or indicate the subtype of the main strain. The main strain could be anything but considering the situation it is Covid-19.
The World Health Organization classifies the Covid-19 variants into 2 main categories. The first one is the Variant of Interest and the other is the Variant of Concern.
- The variant of Interest: These are the variants that can show a significant community transmission of Covid-19 or they can be used to study and gain deep knowledge about the main strain. These variants could be potentially life-threatening.
In the current time, there are 2 Variants of interest of Covid-19.
- Lambda Variant: It was firstly discovered in Peru in December 2020 and designated on 14th June 2021.
- MU Variant: It was firstly found in Colombia in January 2021 and was designated on 30th August 2021.
- The variant of concern: These are the variants of Covid-19 that increase the rate of transmissibility and sometimes death. Sometimes the severity of disease also increases with this type of variant.
Till now there were only 4 Variants of concern but recently a new Variant named Omicron Variant was also found and categorized in the same group.
- Alpha Variant: It was first discovered in the United Kingdom in September 2020. It was the first variant of concern and was designated on 18th December 2020.
- Beta: This was the second variant which was firstly found in South Africa in May 2020 and was designated on 18th December 2020.
- Gamma: The Variant originated from Brazil in November 2020 and was designated in January 2020.
- Delta: This variant originated from India in October 2020 and was believed to be the most dangerous variant of all of them. According to the reports, the second wave in India was seen due to this variant. This variant was first designated as VOI on 4 April 2021 but later it was designated as the VOC on 11th May 2021. It was also considered as the most dominating variant of Covid-19.
- Omicron: It has become the 5th variant in the list of VOC. Scientists are indicating it first appeared in Africa but according to the data of WHO the place of origin is still unknown. It started emerging simultaneously from multiple countries in Nov 2021.
The variant was designated as Virus under Microscope on 24th November 2021 and VOC on 26th November 2021.
2. What is Omicron Variant?
Recently in November 2021, a new Variant of Concern was found by the WHO. This new Covid-19 variant Omicron is spreading rapidly in Africa. It was found that it has over 50+ mutations and the effectiveness of the vaccine is still unknown for this variant.
3. Meaning of Omicron
As previously the World Health Organization (WHO) has been giving names to the Covid-19 variants based on Greek alphabet letters this time it has done the same too. WHO has already named the previous variants as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Lambda, and MU which are part of modern and ancient Greek letters.
Omicron is symbolized as (Ο ο) and is the 15 letter of Modern Greek and the 16th letter in ancient Greek. We may see new variants named Sigma, Pi, or other Greek letters.
4. Place of Origin
This new strain caused by Omicron Variant was first discovered in Botswana and since then there has been news of the rapidly spreading of this variant over South Africa.
Currently, there are many facts unclear about this variant and the emergence of this variant was shown from multiple places at the same time.
5. Countries Affected of Omicron Variant
This new Covid-19 variant which is considered to be highly contagious has already made its presence across the globe. According to statista.com some of the countries which were affected mostly by it so far include:
- United Kingdom: 457,256
- USA: 372,890
- Germany: 48,960
- Canada: 31,563
6. Why a Varaint of Concern?
There are mainly 3 reasons for declaring the Omicron variant as the variant of Concern.
- Number Of Mutations: At any given time there are a lot of mutations taking place but the need for concern starts when it was figured that the Omicron variant has already over 50+ mutations.
- Type Of Mutations: These different types of mutations can lead and enhance the effect of the virus in different ways. Some of the affected factors are:
- v Transmissibility
- v Severity of disease
- v Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection
- v Effectiveness of vaccines
- v Effectiveness of current tests
- v Effectiveness of current treatments
You can get more information about the mutations and their effects here (Mutation And Its Effect).
- Speed Of Its Spread: It was recorded that the Omicron variant is the fastest spreading variant till now. Many countries like the USA, Australia, the UK, and many more have already started preparing for the scenario.
7. Symptoms of Omicron Varaint
The symptoms of this variant are said to be slightly different from the other Covid-19 variant symptoms. A South African doctor who first reported the case of this new variant said ” people she has examined so far have been exhibiting milder” symptoms than those affected by the Delta variant”.
Some of the differences in the symptoms are-
- The sense of taste remains the same
- Fatigue is an observed symptom in this variant
- The sense of smell remains the same
- The Oxygen saturation level doesn’t fall
8. Who on Omicron
The Omicron variant was found and announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on November 25. Since then the WHO is also looking into the situation and trying to dig out more information. The organization has already conducted research across the globe to understand many other aspects of the Omicron Variant.
However, WHO has clearly said that
“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta.”
“It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.”
“The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well.”
9. Does Vaccine Work for Omicron Variant?
How deadly this variant is will depend on whether our Vaccines work or not. However WHO is continuing its research and studies and has clearly said that “it is working with other technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on existing vaccines and other countermeasures.”
The preliminary data from South Africa has clearly stated that the number of hospitalizations has increased. Scientists are also saying it may take up to 2-3 weeks to determine the severity of the Omicron variant.
However, previously we have seen “THE MORE DEADLY IS LESS TRANSMISSIBLE, AND THE LESS DEADLY IS MORE TRANSMISSIBLE”. This is the general trend followed by most of the diseases however exceptions exist and we may see this omicron variant less deadly than the Delta variant.
10. Is Omicron Variant a Blessing in Disguise?
The Delta variant was seen as the most dominating and deadly variant till now. The majority of the cases worldwide are caused by the Delta variant of Covid-19. Getting a mutation that is less deadly, more dominating but more transmissible as well can be a piece of good news.
This new Omicron variant may dominate the deadly Delta variant and finish it. If the Omicron variant stays then there is a slight chance of mutation that can cause this variant delta to reappear in a comparatively less deadly form. Though there is a global decrease in the cases of this new COVID-19 variant recently.