In November 2021, Omicron virus - a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This new variant was first detected in specimens collected in Botswana and in South Africa.
The emergence of the Omicron variant comes at a time when the world was finally trying to get back to normal. And as the world grapples with multiple questions and concerns, scientists are researching on this new strain to understand the magnitude of the issue and its effect for the year 2022.
So far, the reports say the following:
It is not yet clear whether Omicron is easily spread from person to person as compared to other variants, including Delta
There is no evidence so far that the standard prevention strategies, including vaccination, masking, distancing, ventilation and handwashing are not effective in reducing the risk of infection or transmission.
WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines.
It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.
The widely used PCR tests can be used to detect the infection with Omicron. Experts are studying to determine whether there is any impact of other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.
Suggestions From WHO
WHO recommends everyone to: -
Maintain social distancing.
Wear a well-fitting mask.
Avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces.
Sanitize hands and frequently touched surfaces
Cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and
Get vaccinated as soon as possible
WHO has requested various countries to increase some public health and medical capacities if at all there is an increase in cases.
In addition, it has urged all countries to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are in stock for all citizens - to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics.
While we still have a lot to learn about omicron, this new variant is a reminder to all of us that we need to boost our immune system and continue taking precautions be it any day.