The whole world was not prepared for the rude shock that it faced at the dawn of 2020 with the emergence of the corona virus. This virus has changed the world as we know it and has ushered in a new normal life for everyone. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory and intestinal illnesses in humans and animals. They usually cause mild colds in people but the emergence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China in 2002–2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012 show they can also cause severe disease.
The Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus responsible for the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which was first identified in Wuhan, China, following reports of serious pneumonia. Till date, (Feb 2022) the virus has infected over 425 million people and killed over 5.9million people worldwide.
COVID-19 transmits when people breathe in air contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles. The risk of breathing these in is highest when people are in close proximity, but they can be inhaled over longer distances, particularly indoors.
What are the variants of Corona virus?
Viruses like the SARS-CoV-2 that cause COVID-19 continuously evolve as changes in the genetic code (genetic mutations) occur during its replication. A lineage is a genetically closely related group of virus variants derived from a common ancestor. A variant has one or more mutations that differentiate it from other variants of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses. As expected, multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been documented in the United States and worldwide. The variants being monitored include the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, and about 5 other variants. The omicron and Delta are variants of concern (VOC).
What is omicron?
On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron. This decision was based on the evidence presented that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
Omicron has a significant growth advantage compared to other variants of concern. Omicron is overtaking Delta in terms of circulation, and it is very efficiently transmitted between people. It does not mean that everybody will eventually get Omicron, but there are certainly are high cases and surges of cases around the world. This is putting a significant burden on the health care systems, which are already significantly overburdened given that the world is entering into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the symptoms of omicron?
People who are infected with Omicron have the full spectrum of disease, everything from asymptomatic infection all the way through severe disease and death. People with underlying conditions, people with advanced age, people who are unvaccinated can have a severe form of COVID-19 following infection from Omicron. The symptoms of omicron, is basically the same as that of COVID-19 caused by the other variants. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting and
Life threatening symptoms of Omicron include:
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
Inability to wake or stay awake
Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
Complications of Omicron
While studies are still ongoing about the full and long term complications of the Corona virus and its omicron variant, the following are recognized complications for now.
Acute Respiratory Failure
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
Acute Liver Injury
Acute Cardiac Injury
Acute Kidney Injury
Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children and
Chronic Fatigue and neurological complications after recovery from the infection.
Testing for omicron
Anyone with symptoms related to COVID-19 should be tested, wherever possible. People who do not have symptoms but have had close contact with someone who is, or may be, infected may also consider testing, and while a person is waiting for test results, they should remain isolated from others.
A test called the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is used to detect the virus from samples collected from the nose and, or throat with a swab. The Rapid antigen tests (sometimes known as a rapid diagnostic test – RDT) can also be used to quickly detect viral proteins (known as antigens) the same samples as a PCR (nose and, or throat). The RDT are cheaper than PCR and will offer results more quickly, although they are generally less accurate. A positive test for SARS-COV-2 is further tested in the laboratory to identify the particular variant.
How to prevent getting omicron
Omicron is of concern because it spreads pretty faster than the other variants of the COVID-19 virus. Prevention has been proposed as the main stay to protect people from the effect of the virus. The preventive measures to take to avoid the effects of the virus as proposed by the WHO are:
Maintain a safe distance from others (at least 1 metre), even if they don’t appear to be sick.
Wear a mask in public, especially indoors or when physical distancing is not possible.
Choose open, well-ventilated spaces over closed ones. Open a window if indoors.
Cleaning of hands often. Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Getting vaccinated. Remember to get the second doses and booster doses, follow local guidance about vaccination.
Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Stay home if you feel unwell.
With the world being in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to abide by the guidelines given for prevention and be vaccinated to avoid not just getting this disease but transmitting it to your loved ones who may have more serious infections or die from the disease.