Newshound India Health Bulletin: What You Should Know about Omicron

By: Dr Vityala Yethindra
06 Dec 2021 3:24:04 PM Newshound Contributor

The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has raised social alarm due to the reactions in several European countries and the United States, where border closures have been proposed to control it. 


This variant is potentially riskier than the Alpha or Delta variants, which already caused great concern a few months ago due to the doubt of the effectiveness of existing vaccines against these new strains of the virus. The epidemiological situation in South Africa, the country of Omicron’s origin, has been characterised by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the last of which was predominantly the Delta variant. 


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infections have increased considerably in recent weeks, coinciding with the detection of this variant. The first confirmed infection was from a sample collected on November 9, 2021.


Symptoms of the Omicron variant: from extreme fatigue to muscle pain


Omicron is similar to the Beta variant, also identified in South Africa. Omicron has unusual but mild symptoms, and extreme fatigue has been observed in many cases. Those infected with Omicron have another peculiarity compared to previous strains. They do not suffer the symptom that until now was clearer to suspect the contagion of COVID-19; loss of smell and taste. 


There is also an unusual heart rate elevation and a very high fever. Another symptom in those infected with Omicron is muscle pain for a couple of days. The development of the disease is mild. However, there is a potential danger of a more severe and pronounced disease development among the unvaccinated.


Omicron variant in people vaccinated against COVID-19


There are chances of cases and infections in vaccinated people, though in a small and predictable proportion relative to vaccine efficacy values. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that currently available vaccines protect against severe disease and death despite the uncertainties.


Global risk of "high" spread of Omicron


The WHO has warned that this variant has a "high" global risk of spread, so it has asked countries to be prepared for its possible consequences. There is a "high" possibility of Omicron spread worldwide and a "very high" possibility of impact, "given the mutations that can confer an immunological escape potential and possibly a transmissibility advantage."


Restrictions begin for the Omicron variant


Many countries have taken radical measures to tackle this new threat. For example, the United Kingdom, the United States, and several European Union states not allowing travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, while Morocco will not receive international flights for the next two weeks, and Israel has closed its borders to the entry of foreigners.


In India, following the discovery of an Omicron infected patient, last week in Delhi, restrictions such as a mandatory RT-PCR COVID negative certificate before travelling to any major city have been implemented.


Omicron symptoms are explained in five points:


Patients from all age groups (young, middle-aged, old) infected with Omicron strain show extreme tiredness. This is not limited to any age group. 


Patients infected with this variant complained about “Scratchy throat.” 


Patients infected with this strain have not reported a loss of taste or smell, which are known symptoms in patients infected with other strains.


There is no significant drop in oxygen saturation levels. But, for example, a drastic reduction in oxygen saturation levels was seen among patients during the second wave of the pandemic in India.


As per available reports, most of the patients infected with the Omicron strain have recovered without hospitalisation.

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