What is the OMICRON variant?

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On 26th November 2021 WHO (World health organization) designated the variation B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named OMICRON. Omicron has several Mutations.

According to WHO Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand omicron. Many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available. 

According to who at the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, the severity of infection (including symptoms), the performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and the effectiveness of treatments.

According to WHO about the omicron Variant:


It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.  

The severity of disease:

It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.  Preliminary 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 a specific infection with Omicron.  There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.

Initially reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have the more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.  All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key. 

Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection 

Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (i.e., people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but the information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks. 

Effectiveness of vaccines (According to WHO):

WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. 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.   

Effectiveness of current tests:

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.

WHO Recommended actions to stop the spread of OMICRON:

  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. cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue.
  7. Get vaccinated.

Source: World Health Organization 

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