When the world was breathing breaths of relief, thinking that the Coronavirus pandemic was gone, the latest variant Of Concern (VOC) Omicronhas made everyone concerned. The global pharma giant Moderna CEO’s comments that existing vaccines aren’t as effective against the new strain are causing anxiety of the people. It is anticipated that in the coming weeks information about Omicron will surface and a solution discovered sooner rather than later, the tested precautions will protect against the deadly virus.
What is the reason? Omicron is a variation of the concern
The Covid-19 strains that exist receive the same amount of attention as a handful of them like Delta or Omicron. Mutations in the virus are extremely common, and not all variants are given a name due to the evolution process being a continuous one.
“Typically when an unusual instance in the patients (of Covid-19) is discovered, the specimens are sent to be sequenced in order to discover what is causing the abnormal behavior. It could be because the patient was reacting extremely badly and there’s an abrupt increase in cases or the patient might be suffering from a different illness and symptoms appear slight differences. One of these variants has been identified is Omicron,” says Dr. Pavithra Venkatagopalan, Director of Covid Task Force, Awareness, Rotary Club of Madras NextGen, in the course of an interview on HT Digital.
Dr. Venkatagopalan states that the change in virus is not a huge issue. It only becomes an issue when the changes affect how the virus acts as well as the severity of diseases, as well as the method by which we combat these infections such as vaccination. “Omicron is the variant of concern because it may affect our current plan of action and because it seems to be spreading faster than other variants. At the same time, we don’t know yet how efficiently this virus will spread,” says the virologist.
She explains that the fact that there are lots of mutations and changes to the virus genomes that could affect the antibodies already present from earlier infections or vaccinations raises the issue.
Omicron Vs Delta variant
Omicron has brought back the fears of a second virus outbreak. People are wondering whether the new variant might cause a similar or severe wave of infections over the next few months in India. A virologist believes that this new variant could not be as fatal as the delta variants since the symptoms experienced by patients infected with the variant are not as severe.
“We know from the symptoms that we are seeing in the patients that are infected by Omicron, based on the few clusters in South Africa that people seem to be having only mild symptoms. It may not become as lethal as the delta variant, and it might be something we can live with, without having too much fear compared to the delta variant. Also, at that point, not a lot of people were vaccinated. Now a lot more people are vaccinated,” says Dr. Venkatagopalan.
“Theoretically vaccines in India like Covaxin and Covishield will be quite effective against omicron variant as well. In the case of double vaccinated people, cases of serious infections and mortality should be below. In populations that are unvaccinated, there are chances that mortality might be high but based on what we know about Omicron, it only seems to be causing mild infections, so the chances of it (being as deadly as the second wave) really are 50-50 in unvaccinated,” according to the expert.
Common signs of Omicron
The virologist states that it is because the signs are “pretty much the same” however omicron might not cause people to lose their smell or taste in the same way that previous versions affected them.
“You have a scratchy throat, cough, fever, body ache, tiredness – smell and taste are not affected as much as in case of previous variants,” experts say.
Preventive measures from Omicron
The virologist believes it’s essential that people are doubly vaccinated. “There is still a lot of vaccine hesitancy (in people) which is unfortunate because vaccines save lives, they are our friends, vaccines prevent us from horrible deaths. You can stand in line to give your child a polio drop, but you would not get the covid vaccine yourself. You should protect yourself the way you protect your child,” advises the expert.
While stressing the importance of masking the symptoms, Dr. Venkatagopalan suggests it be strictly adhered to. She suggests that in the case of cough, cold, or any other Covid symptoms, one must be able to isolate themselves and undergo a test. Being aware of what’s going on around you and washing your hands regularly is another way that should be followed to protect against the infection.