As expected, Omicron cases are on the rise across the world. This variant of COVID-19 is extremely dangerous as it spreads much faster than all its predecessors. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared it a ‘variant of concern’. While the new variant is causing numerous illnesses, the severity continues to be mild. The best part is that there have been considerably lesser hospitalizations when compared to previous waves. This data, some experts say, is a ‘silver lining’ and may put an end to the pandemic.
According to Monica Gandhi, an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco, this is totally different phase of the coronavirus. However, she said that the virus is going to stay with the people. “The virus is always going to be with us, but my hope is this variant causes so much immunity that it will quell the pandemic.”
The Omicron variant – B.1.1529 – was first reported on November 24 last year in South Africa. The first confirmed case of this variant was detected from a specimen that was collected on November 9, 2021. The rise in the number of cases coincided with the detection of the variant. Preliminary evidence suggested that the variant has a large number of mutations and some of them could be concerning.
Omicron causes less severe disease
However, a study – conducted in South Africa – indicated that those infected with the variant were 73 per cent less likely to have the severe disease than those admitted with the delta-variant of the COVID-19.
The reason behind it is that the Omicron variant is not infecting the lung as easily as all previous variants. A study on hamsters and mice showed that when they are infected with the Omicron, they experienced far less lung damage. They are very less likely to die with the Omicron as compared to those infected with previous variants including Delta.
Hong Kong scientists studied samples from patients infected with Omicron and found that the variant grew much slower than other variants.