Omicron Variant: How Severe And Transmissible Is This Virus?

Omicron Variant: How Severe And Transmissible Is This Virus?

According to the WHO, researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of the Omicron Variant.
Omicron Variant


Having designated the coronavirus strain B.1.1.529, named 'Omicron', a variant of concern earlier this week, the World Health Organisation or WHO on Sunday released its latest findings amid growing concern across the world.

According to the WHO, researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of the Omicron variant. A of now, this is what is known:

Transmissibility 

Whether or not Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta, is yet to be known.

Severity of disease

Is Omicron causing more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta? This too is yet to be known. Data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron. As of now there is no information to suggest that symptoms of Omicron are different from those from other variants. All variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is key. 
 

Vaccine effectiveness

Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.   

Testing

The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.  

Effectiveness of current treatments

Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron variant.  

Since Omicron is a virus of concern, there are several actions WHO recommends countries to undertake, including:

- Enhance surveillance and sequencing of cases

- Share genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO

- Perform field investigations and assessments to understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics etc.    

- Countries should implement effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach

WHO Recommended actions to stop the spread 

The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is:

1. Keep physical distance of at least 1 metre from others

2. Wear a mask

3. Open windows to improve ventilation

4. Avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces

5. Keep hands clean

6. Get vaccinated 

Source: World Health Organization 

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30CANCAN - Technology Simplified: Omicron Variant: How Severe And Transmissible Is This Virus?
Omicron Variant: How Severe And Transmissible Is This Virus?
Omicron Variant: How Severe And Transmissible Is This Virus?
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