Q. What is Omicron, & what makes it a Variant of Concern (VoC)?
Ans: A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was recently reported from South Africa, first discovered in Botswana. Omicron has been declared a VoC based on the observed mutations & their predicted features of increased transmission, immune evasion & improved reinfections. The definitive evidence for increased remission & immune evasion is under study.
Q. Why do Variants occur?
Ans: It is a normal part of the evaluation & will continue to evolve as long as the virus can infect, replicate & transmit. Not all variants are dangerous, & they gain prominence only when they are more infectious or can reinfect people etc. The most crucial step is to reduce the number of infections.
Q. How does one know if it's Omicron?
Ans: The samples go to NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) or authorised labs for genomic sequencing, where they analyse the samples & conclude the variant.
Q. What are the symptoms of Omicron?
Ans: The World Health Organisation says 89 per cent of those with confirmed Omicron infections in Europe reported symptoms common with other coronavirus variants, including cough, sore throat & fever. Some people have unusual symptoms like body ache, headache & fatigue.
Q. Can the current diagnostic methods detect Omicron?
Ans: RT-PCR is the most accepted & commonly used method for testing COVID-19. However, for definite confirmation of Omicron, genomic sequencing is required.
Q. Is the new variant Omicron; a concern?
Ans: Omicron has been declared a variant of concern based on mutations, increased transmission & reinfections. The definitive evidence for increased remission & immune evasion is still under study.
Q. What is the severity of this variant?
Ans: These are early days right now. Initial data of the western countries suggest that it is less severe & possibly milder, requiring a lesser hospital stay. However, we still are unsure how it will emerge?
Q. Can people who have had COVID-19 get infected again?
Ans: Yes, reinfection is a high possibility (Any patient who has already suffered from COVID in the past can get it again). Breakthrough infection is also possible (any vaccinated patient can also get it).
Q. What precautions should we take?
Ans: 1. Wear masks
2. Take both vaccination doses
3. Maintain social distancing
4. Ensure good ventilation
Q. Will there be a third wave?
Ans: Reportedly, Omicron cases are increasing. Scale, magnitude & severity is still not clear but is anticipated to be low because
The pace of vaccination is fast
High exposure to delta variants
Q. Will the existing vaccines work against Omicron?
Ans: No evidence existing vaccines do not work. Some mutations may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines. However, vaccines do offer protection against severe disease.
Therefore, get vaccinated immediately!
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