Many parts of the omicron virus are being studied by researchers in South Africa and throughout the world, and the findings will be shared as they become available. Because of an unusually high number of mutations that have the potential to make the virus more transmissible and less susceptible to existing vaccines, scientists and public health officials are concerned about this new iteration of the coronavirus, which was first identified in Botswana and South Africa.
Transmissibility or not?
It’s unclear if Omicron is more transmissible (i.e., easier to transfer from person to person) than other variations, such as Delta. In regions of South Africa afflicted by this variation, the number of persons testing positive has increased, although epidemiologic studies are planned to determine if this is due to Omicron or other reasons.
South African researchers raised the alarm after discovering more than 30 alterations in the spike protein, a component on the variant’s surface that helps it to connect to human cells and enter the body. Some of the Botswana samples share around 50 mutations throughout the virus that before discovery in combination.
Severity of disease
It is unclear if infection with Omicron produces more severe illness than infection with other forms, such as Delta. Preliminary evidence shows that hospitalization rates are increasing in South Africa. However, this might be due to an increase in the general number of persons being sick rather than a particular infection with Omicron. There is presently no evidence that symptoms related to Omicron vary from those associated with other variations. The first reported infections were among university students. Younger people are likely to have milder disease. But determining the severity of the Omicron form will take days to weeks. All COVID-19 variations, including the Delta variant, which is widespread globally, can cause serious sickness or death. Especially in the most susceptible persons, hence prevention is always essential.
Effectiveness of vaccines
WHO is collaborating with technical partners to further understand. The possible impact of this variation on our existing countermeasures, such as vaccinations. Vaccines, notably those against the major circulating form, Delta, are crucial for reducing severe illness and mortality. Current immunizations continue to protect against serious illness and death.
Recommended actions for countries
Because the omicron virus has been designe as a Variant of Concern. WHO recommends that countries improve surveillance and sequencing of cases, share genome sequences on publicly available databases like GISAID, report initial cases or clusters to WHO. And conduct investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand. If Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics or has an impact on vaccine effectiveness.
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