Over the course of the past three weeks, COVID-19, the infectious viral ailment, has triggered widespread of infection, chiefly owing to the emergence of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 known as Omicron. Scientifically designated as B.1.1.529 and first discovered in South Africa on November 24, 2021, this new variant of coronavirus was declared as a Variant Of Concern (VOC) on November 26, 2021, by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While this led to travel restrictions on various international flights, the WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced in an official statement on December 14, 2021, that the omicron strain had already spread rapidly and been detected in as many as 77 countries around the world and is highly likely to already be present or be reported very soon in many more regions. Furthermore, he warned the general public and healthcare professionals that this new COVID-19 variant must not be ignored and it is the need of the hour to prepare advanced and ample healthcare infrastructure and personnel. This must be done to prevent hospitals and primary care centres from being overwhelmed, like in previous infection peaks instigated by the Delta variant, bearing the scientific designation B.1.617.
While the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus is definitely a cause for concern, medical and healthcare experts at the WHO and other premier institutions across the globe urge the general public not to panic with undue stress, anxiety and to continue following COVID-appropriate protocol wherever possible. This includes wearing face masks, using hand sanitisers, maintaining social distancing in public places, washing hands with soap and water regularly, as well as getting vaccinated. Also, it is crucial to stay well-informed with facts about Omicron, to not spread misleading details and also keep a lookout for the signs and symptoms.
5 Distinct Symptoms Of Omicron Variant Of COVID-19:
Although omicron manifests in the human body in much the same way as previous variants of coronavirus such as beta and delta, it displays certain distinguishing symptoms that vary from typical flu-like signs, according to Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a chief physician in South Africa who first alerted the world about the presence of this new variant of COVID-19. She stated that the patients she had treated did not always exhibit the characteristic indications linked with COVID-19 such as sore throat, runny nose, high fever, cough and loss of sense of smell, taste.
As per the observations reported by Dr. Coetzee, the majority of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in South Africa have obtained the infection from omicron and showcase the following 5 symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Body pain
- Mild temperature
- Scratchy throat
She also highlighted the fact that omicron can trigger COVID-19 infection even in people who have already been vaccinated or have already contracted COVID-19, but symptoms such as headaches and fatigue are less severe in individuals who have taken the vaccine shots.
Omicron And The Efficacy Of Vaccines:
Not much is presently known about how effective the various COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered around the world are, against the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. A study conducted in South Africa has published results that prove that the Pfizer vaccine does provide at least 70 per cent protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19, thereby significantly preventing severe infection and hospital admissions and only causing mild symptoms. This study only takes into consideration patients in South Africa though, a country in which the majority of the population have received the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.
However, further research is needed, to fully understand how the manner in which omicron induces infection differs from the other variants of concern such as beta and delta and how effective other COVID-19 vaccines are against this new variant.
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