The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has spread around the world at a rapid rate since it was first discovered in southern Africa in November, but there is still much we don’t know about it.
More data is needed to determine its precise characteristics and how it responds to our existing coronavirus vaccines, but what seems beyond question is that it is more transmissible than any previous strain we have encountered over the course of the pandemic thus far. including alpha and delta variants.
Omicron has been detected in at least 110 countries to date, with countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and South Korea reimposing lockdown measures to curb its spread.
The UK has continued to experience extremely high levels of Covid infections over the festive period, with total daily cases in England soaring to a pandemic high of 218,724 on January 4, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
One aspect of the Omicron variant that has become clear in recent weeks is how it differs from the original Covid strain.
While the World Health Organization estimated that it took two days to two weeks for symptoms to materialize in cases of people infected with the first strain of coronavirus, the Omicron variant is thought to incubate much faster, closer to three to five days.
“Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectivity may be shorter for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant,” UK health secretary Sajid Javid told reporters. parliamentarians on December 6.
That would explain why it has spread so rapidly and successfully, as its short incubation period gives patients a shorter window between suspecting they have contracted the virus and experiencing an outbreak, making them less likely to a positive test result is recorded. time to warn others, go into isolation and prevent contagion from being transmitted.
A shorter incubation period “makes a virus much, much, much harder to control,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. the atlantic Recently.
Another feature of Omicron that makes it potentially more difficult to detect than other strains is that its symptoms differ somewhat from the three main indicators we’ve learned to watch for: cough, fever, and any loss of taste or smell .
Early warning signs for the new variant, by contrast, include itchy throat, lower back pain, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and fatigue, sneezing, and night sweats.
Current evidence from the Omicron cases analyzed in Britain is that patients will recover in an average of five days to a week, although some of the symptoms such as cough and fatigue may persist for longer.
Difficulty breathing has also been reported in more severe cases, which has been seen to last up to 13 days afterwards.
Covid sufferers are generally thought to be infectious to others for about two days before their first symptoms begin to materialize and for about 10 days afterward.
If you think you have symptoms of Omicron or the still-dominant Delta variant, current NHS advice is to get a PCR test as soon as possible and self-isolate at home to protect others.
Our best hope against Omicron at present collectively is to accept the offer of a booster shot of the vaccine, which has now been rolled out to all adults in the UK, as studies have shown that three injections are likely to offer a much higher degree of immunity. against the new strain that just two.
But, as Mr. Javid said at the end of the BBC The Andrew Marr Show“there are no guarantees in this pandemic”, so the public is also advised to adhere to the restrictions currently in place, including wearing masks in public spaces, ditch unnecessary social engagements this winter, and exercise extreme caution.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.