Omicron variant, the new variant of COVID19, has wreaked havoc across the world. It is spreading at an incredible rate with cases doubling at a much higher rate than ever before. The Omicron variant cases have pushed the overall COVID19 tally to an all time high in the US with California being the most affected state with over 6 million COVID cases.
Omicron was first discovered in South Africa; and, on 26th Nov’21, WHO declared it to be a variant of concern. As of today, it has infected millions across the globe.
However, fortunately, the data aggregated till date shows the fact that Omicron variant, unlike the variants that emerged earlier, causes severe illness in fewer people. Here is all we know about the COVID19 Omicron variant so far –
Symptoms of Omicron
Omicron variant symptoms are as varied as they were in case of prior variants. However, preliminary data suggests that Omicron is less likely to cause a serious lung infection. Its impact, seen till date, is mostly limited to the upper respiratory tract.
Symptoms of Omicron can include –
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Transmissibility of Omicron
Data suggests that Omicron variants is more infectious than prior variants. It has a higher viral load which means that a person infected with Omicron is more infectious as compared to someone infected with the Delta variant.
Severity of illness with Omicron
Omicron cases till date have shown that the variant is less likely to cause serious illness like pneumonia. Severity of illness is seen to be less in people infected with Omicron as compared to the prior variants like Delta.
Effectiveness of vaccination on Omicron
There have been cases of vaccinated people getting infected with Omicron; however, it has also been seen that symptoms are usually mild in vaccinated people and majority of them do not require hospitalization. Unvaccinated people on the other hand are showing much serious symptoms and often require hospitalizations as well.
Pfizer recently revealed that three doses of the vaccine is able to neutralise Omicron in laboratory experiments. It also maintains that two doses of the vaccine can provide reasonable protection against hospitalization and serious illness. This is being echoed by various other vaccine manufacturers as well. It has also become one of the major reasons why many countries across the world have rolled out a third dose (also called a booster dose) on a fast-track basis.
Hence, vaccine may not be able to completely neutralise Omicron but it is definitely providing protection against severe illness.
Effectiveness of a prior COVID19 infection
When someone is infected with a virus, their body generates an immune response which helps the body fight-off the virus if exposed to it again. However, this immune response varies from person to person and is also different in case of different variants of COVID19.
There have been many cases of reinfection since the emergence of Omicron; preliminary data suggests that the effectiveness of a prior COVID19 infection against Omicron is considerably low.