What is Omicron variant?
Omicron variant, first discovered in the fourth week of November in Botswana and South Africa, has attracted the attention of scientists and public health officials around the world.
Because of the high prevalence of Omicron, there is concern that it will increase the risk of infection and that current vaccines will not work. The World Health Organization has called Omicron a “variant of concern” and warned it could pose a global risk. So far, Omicron infections have been found in all continents except Antarctica.
So far no infected Omicron variant has been found in Nepal. Neighboring India and another South Asian country, Sri Lanka, have seen some cases of the virus in the past week.
Why is it called Omicron?
The World Health Organization has decided to name a new variant of the coronavirus after the Greek alphabet. The variant found in the UK was named Alpha and the variant found in South Africa was named Beta. The variant found in India was named Delta. The variant now found had to be named. Then came the next alphabet.
These alphabets are Omicron, so that most people can hear the news and Xi is the last name of many people (such as Chinese President Xi Jinping). According to its policy, the variant will not be named in a way that affects any ethnic community, social, national, regional or professional group.
Should we be worried?
The discovery of Omicron has caused waves all over the world. Countries including Japan, Israel and Morocco have banned foreigners from entering the country, while the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have banned flights from South Africa and surrounding countries. Nepal, along with Hong Kong, has banned entry from neighboring countries, including South Africa.
Public health officials say Omicron has not yet been proven to be more dangerous than its predecessor, the Delta variant. Scientists in South Africa have reported a recent outbreak of omega-3 infections, and those who have been infected before have relapsed.
They say that when the Beta and Delta variants arrived, so many people who had been infected before did not get infected again. According to South African scientists, Omicron can be twice as contagious than Delta. A study has shown that Omicron’s infection does not cause much illness. Since the study was conducted only on young people in South Africa, it is not clear what effect it will have on the elderly.
Dr angelique coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, said hospitals were overcrowded and many people who came to the hospital were not vaccinated. He says most of the infected people he met did not lose their taste or smell and only coughed a little.
Why are scientists worried about Omicron?
Scientists in South Africa initially reported more than 30 mutations in the spike protein of this variant. Some of the samples later released by Botswana contained 50 different mutations that had never been seen before.
The coronavirus enters the cells of the human body with the help of its spike protein. The current vaccine targets the same spike protein. With so many mutations in the spike protein, it is feared that it will evade antibodies in the body after vaccination. There is another fear that these mutations in the spike protein will help in the transmission of the disease.
Do vaccines work?
Experts expect the available vaccines to work to some extent against the Omicron variant. They have pointed out the need to give a booster dose keeping in mind that the antibodies are decreasing after 6 months of vaccination.
Anthony Fauci , the US government’s chief medical adviser, has urged people to use booster doses and masks, and to use safety measures to avoid crowds. Some scientists hope that even if they do not receive a booster dose, the T cells made from the previously vaccinated vaccine may work to prevent serious illness.
Vaccine makers Moderna, Pfizer-Biontech, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have said they have studied Omicron and are confident they can work against the new variant. (Based on published material from the New York Times)