Despite what many of us might like to believe COVID-19 has not gone away
On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron. Omicron is spreading faster than any previous variant and these sub variants have now spread to several countries including the United Kingdom and the United States.
Omicron infection generally causes less severe disease than infection with prior variants.
People who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and get COVID-19 are less likely to develop serious illness than those who are unvaccinated and get COVID-19.
The measures for prevention remain the same as for the other variants of coronavirus. For proper protection, people should not compromise the recommended precautions and guidelines.
Where is the Omicron variant present?
Omicron has been found in 77 countries less than a month after it was officially reported.
As it announced that figure, the WHO added, the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries even if it has not been detected yet.
How did the Omicron variant develop?
When a virus is circulating widely and causing numerous infections the likelihood of the virus mutating increases.
The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.
Variants like Omicron are a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.
It is therefore essential that people get the vaccine when available to them and continue to follow existing advice on preventing the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, wearing masks, regular handwashing and keeping indoor areas well ventilated.
It is also crucial that vaccines and other public health measures are accessible everywhere. Vaccine inequity leaves lower income countries _ many of them in Africa _ at the mercy of COVID-19.
What Are the Symptoms of Omicron?
Early studies found that cold-like symptoms were common in those with Omicron. They reported that the top five symptoms related to the variant were:
_ Runny nose
_ Sore throat
Muscle pain also seems to be common
The COVID‐19 symptoms due to the Omicron variant are milder so far.
However, the Omicron variant could potentially raise death rates due to its very high transmissibility , especially in unvaccinated people and people who are at risk of severe outcomes such as elderly and those with severe underlying health conditions .
However, a smaller proportion of people who are infected with Omicron end up hospitalised compared to people infected with Delta.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective against the Omicron variant?
The WHO approved COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing severe illness and death, including against Omicron.
The vaccines offer reduced protection against infection and mild disease from Omicron though which is why it's important to continue taking measures to reduce the spread of the virus such as physical distancing , mask wearing , good ventilation and regular handwashing.
It is also important to be vaccinated to protect against the other widely circulating variants, such as the Delta one.
When it’s your turn, make sure to get vaccinated. If your vaccination involves two doses it’s important to receive both in order to have the maximum protection.
Is a prior infection offers protection against omicron?
If you had COVID-19 before, it is possible that you can be reinfected by Omicron.
You should get vaccinated even if you’ve previously had COVID-19.
While people who recover from COVID-19 may develop some natural immunity to the virus, we do not yet know how long it lasts or how well you are protected. Vaccines offer more reliable protection.
How to protect yourself against the omicron?
These are the best practice to prevent and avoid being exposed to the virus and its variants:
1- Wearing mask
2- Maintain physical distancing (about 6 feet)
3- Follow good hand hygiene technique (Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
The Omicron variant is more contagious than previous variants. However, being vaccinated and taking precautions such as avoiding crowded spaces, keeping your distance from others and wearing a mask are critical in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This content including advice provides generic information only.
Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.
You can consult our Doctors team through our virtual clinic.
Athens Virtual Clinic does not claim any responsibility for this information.