Omicron, the new variant of coronavirus, has been popping up in news feeds recently. The variant has caused panic and was declared a “variant concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday. What do we know about this variant? Almost nothing. We are more relaxed because of the few details that we have. At least for the moment.
The Omicron Variant: What is it?
The Omicron variant of coronavirus is known as B.1.1.529. It was discovered in South Africa by Dr. Angelique Cetzee, who is also chair of the South African Medical Association to Reuters. Coetzee noticed that patients with similar symptoms to the Delta variant were coming in. This pattern led Coetzee to conclude that there was something else.
What are Omicron’s symptoms?
Although it’s too early to speak about the Omicron variant’s symptoms, we can tell that they are milder than those of Delta. According to Reuters, Dr. Coetzee said that patients complained of feeling tired and suffering from headaches and body aches. The majority of patients don’t lose their senses of taste and smell, reports or the New York Times.
What is Omicron’s uniqueness from other versions?
One word: mutations. Professor Tulio De Oliveira, director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa , said that the “variant did surprise” them. He added, “It has a huge jump in evolution [and] many more mutants than we expected.”
Professor said that there are 50 variants of the virus, with 30 being on the spike protein. The spike Protein is what penetrates host cells and initiates infection.
There are 10 mutations in the receptor-binding domain (the part that connects with the host cell) of Omicron. Delta has only two mutations, to put this in perspective.
This variant is not as widespread as others, but it has all the characteristics to be highly transmissible.
How concerned should we be about this variant? We are just as concerned about this variant as we were with any other. It is important that you are smart and not panic. This variant appears to be mild for the time being. No deaths have been reported at this point.
Although there have been reports of cases in the UK, Canada, and other countries, no cases have been reported in the U.S. mainstream media have reported that cases might have not been detected in the U.S.
The evidence so far suggests that this variant is milder than Delta. Yes, all of this can change at any moment, but until more evidence is available, it’s important to stay calm, act responsibly, and not judge on any uncertainty.