Omicron: All You Need to Know about New Covid Variant

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The omicron version of the Coronavirus has heightened fears in an already anxious world. The variety, which was first discovered in southern Africa’s Botswana, is thought to be spreading quicker than the delta variant, which is the world’s dominant strain.

More research is needed, however, to determine whether the omicron (or B.1.1.529), which is classified as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), is indeed leading to an increase in hospitalizations and fatalities.

Healthcare professionals have dubbed omicron a “super strain” since it has more than 30 mutations, more than any other variety, and twice as many as delta.

Concerns around the Omicron variant

According to preliminary tests, the new variation reduces the effectiveness of immunizations by 40%. This is because the spike protein has 32 mutations.

Two of these mutations, R203K and G204R, help the virus replicate faster, according to UK health experts cited by Daily Mail. They claim that three of these mutations – H655Y, N679K, and P681H – make it easier for it to enter the body’s cells. The existence of the last two mutations combined, which is unusual, also indicates that omicron is more vaccine resistant.

Researchers also noted that omicron lacks a membrane protein (NSP6) found in previous incarnations of the virus, which experts believe could make it more contagious.

However, scientists have stated that additional research is required before clear conclusions concerning the omicron version and its behavior can be drawn.

What is the origin of the Omicron?

According to WHO, the variety first appeared in the southern portion of Africa earlier this month, causing a new wave of infections.

Travelers to Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel, and southern Africa have all reported witnessing Omicron. 

The global response

Due to the emergence of omicron, which has resulted in a 320 percent increase in an infection on the continent, a number of countries, including the United States, have imposed travel bans on African countries.

South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique are the countries involved.

Where has the omicron variant spread?

There have been two confirmed cases in Hong Kong, as well as one each in Israel and Belgium. In Israel, three people are suspected of harboring the strain.

In the case of Hong Kong, a man contracted the strain in South Africa and passed it on to another person staying in the same room. A man from Israel has been confirmed as having traveled to Malawi recently.

What makes Omicron so risky?

According to the WHO, preliminary research suggests an increased risk of reinfection when compared to other highly transmissible forms. That means that persons who have previously contracted Covid-19 and recovered may be at risk of contracting it again.

On Friday, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told legislators, “We must respond promptly and at the earliest possible moment.”

What do we know about the variant?

The B.1.1.529 was discovered in a sample taken from Botswana, Africa. They were shocked to see that the spike protein had over 30 alterations (mutations).

However, experts are continuing to research the variation and its implications to see if it causes more serious disease. Some patients infected with this strain, like others, show no symptoms, according to physicians in South Africa.

Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, have urged against overreacting until the variant is properly known.

Though the omicron form is thought to be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease specialist, stated, “we don’t know that for sure right now.”

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