New Delhi: The new variant of COVID-19 - Omicron, that was discovered in South Africa was been declared as the ‘Variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday (November 26). Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but the information is limited. Dr Angelique Coetzee, who first identified the omicron variant, shedding the light on its symptoms has told that the strain is so far producing “very, very mild” effects in patients, but they are different from the Delta variant.
Talking to BBC News, Dr Angelique said that patients have reported extreme tiredness, body aches and pains with a bit of a headache, scratchy rather than sore throat, and no cough or loss of taste or smell. She however made these observations from the small group of patients who she had treated.
“What we are seeing clinically in South Africa, and remember that I’m at the epicenter, that’s where I’m practicing, is extremely mild…We haven’t admitted anyone [to hospital]. I spoke to other colleagues of mine: The same picture,” she told the BBC. The scenario is however subject to change as the time progresses.
Dr Rahul Pandit, Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai and Member of the Supreme Court-appointed National COVID19 Task Force says, “The new variant is said to be incredibly heavily mutated. As WHO has declared the variant as ‘Variant of Concern’ (VOC), we will need to know what these mutations do to the inherent abilities of the virus. Until today there were 50 mutations overall and more than 30 on the spike protein.
He further elaborates, “having many mutations does not mean that the virus will be deadlier or more dangerous. However, it is important to know what those mutations are doing. Scientists are still studying the variant and its effects further to identify if it causes more severe disease or has higher transmissibility. We need to wait for more data to come out to understand whether this variant could evade vaccine or natural immunity.”
Dr Pandit stresses the need to continue following strict COVID-19 appropriate behavior like wearing a mask, social distancing, testing before and after travel more strictly, and need to be more cautious.