The Omicron variant of coronavirus, which was first reported in South Africa has triggered global alarm. The Variant has found its way into other countries as it is causing them to close borders and put further restrictions in place to keep the new variant at bay. Scientists have begun the race to figure out how dangerous this new variant is.
At a briefing convened by South Africa’s Department of Health on Monday, Unben Pillay, a GP practicing in Midrand on the outskirts of Johannesburg, said that while “it is still early days” the cases he was seeing were typically mild: “We are seeing patients present with dry cough, fever, night sweats and a lot of body pains. Vaccinated people tend to do much better.”
The emergence of Omicron variant has led to dipping stocks markets, increased travel restrictions and widespread fear about what this COVID-19 variant could present to us.
However, health experts have said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. We still need to adhere to the safety protocols especially, social distancing if we are to be successful in fighting this new variant. What we know so far;
What are the symptoms of the new omicron COVID variant?
WHO says there’s no evidence to say that symptoms linked to the omicron variant are different from those caused by other variants.
But like all variants, WHO said, omicron may be capable of causing severe disease or death, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Although it’s going to take several weeks to have a concrete say on the symptoms, there have been a few identified ones.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the South African Medical Association, who first raised the alarm has said that symptoms of the Omicron variant are ‘extremely mild’, however, very ‘unfamiliar.’
Patients have reported mild muscle aches, a “scratchy throat” and dry cough.
There are no reports of “severe drop in oxygen saturation levels.” And this is different compared to the Delta variant.
There are reports of “extreme tiredness” among patients.
Dr. Coetzee said many of the patients she treated were presenting with unusual symptoms, particularly severe tiredness, and none were reporting loss of taste or smell.
The common symptoms of Covid 19 known were:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
What makes Omicron different from other Variants?
The Omicron variant appears to have about 30 mutations in on the coronavirus’ spike protein.
Dr. Francis Collins, the director for the National Institutes of Health said: “We do know that this is a variant that has a lot of mutations, like 50 of them and more than 30 of those in the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that attaches to your human cells if you get infected, that is a new record in terms of the number of mutations,” he said. “It does make you worry, therefore, that it’s a sufficiently different virus. That it might not respond as well to protection from the vaccines. But we don’t know that,” he added.
Out of the approximately 30 mutations, 26 are unique to the Omicron variant and don’t appear in other variants of concern, according to Dr. Venky Soundararajan, co-founder and chief medical officer at Nference, a data analytics firm in Massachusetts.
In comparison, the alpha variant has only four unique mutations, beta has six, gamma has eight and delta has seven.
“I’m less concerned about the fact that these mutations exist and I’m more concerned about the fact that we know very little about many of them,” Soundararajan said.