On 31st December 2019, there were a number of cases of Pneumonia with unclear causation at a market of Wuhan city in China. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a pandemic outbreak for COVID-19. The 2019 novel coronavirus was termed as COVID-19 on 11th February 2020 by WHO. COVID-19 viruses constantly mutating and these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. New variants will continue to emerge. Therefore, the WHO has introduced a new naming of coronavirus variants where those mutant COVID-19 strains were first emerged according to geographical origins. The new convention uses letters from the Greek alphabet to identify the various variants. The most concerning variants are:
- Alpha (B.1.1.7), first emerged from the United Kingdom
- Beta (B.1.351) was first detected in South African
- Delta (B.1.617.2) also known as “double mutant” was first identified in India.
- Kappa (B.1.617.1) first originated in India
- Gamma (P.1) was first detected in Brazil.
- Omicron variant (1.1.529) was first identified in South Africa
Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.529, was reported to the WHO on 24th November 2021. This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on 11thNovember, in Botswana and on 14thNovember in South Africa respectively. The World Health Organization termed the B.1.1.529 Omicron and classified it as a “Variant of Concern” (VOC) on 26th November. Similarly, on 30th November, the United States designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern. It was given the name omicron, after the Greek alphabet’s 15th letter. Now a days, Omicron has been detected in most states and is rapidly spreading the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing. According to CDC,(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)even if people are vaccinated, the infection can easily spread the virus to others. The omicron variant has more than 50 mutations, with a majority of them in the virus’ spike protein and it uses to infect human cells. A study shows that the progenitor of Omicron jumped from humans to mice, quickly accumulated mutations favorable to infecting that host, then it jumped back into humans which indicates an inter-species evolutionary trajectory for the Omicron outbreak(Wei et al., 2020).
Likewise, a Kaiser study shows that it has half the risk of hospitalization, 74% less risk of ICU admission, and 91% less risk of death. On 14thDecember, 2021, the World Health Organization supposed 77 countries had reported omicron cases. Particularly, Ministry of Health and Population announced24 out of 250 samples were first detected omicron variants in Nepal on 7th January, 2022.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee from the South African Medical Association chairman, states omicron variants symptoms were “very minor” and could be treated at home. According to WHO, omicron variants can cause;
- Shortness of breath
- Muscular body aches
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Uncomfortable and clogged nose
- Runny nose and like other coronavirus variants and also can cause severe illness or death, mostly in sensitive individuals.
Some preventive measures which prevent from omicron variants and they are;
- Anyone incoming in PEI from another country must be tested at the points of entry and then again on day four
- Hand hygiene
- Physical distancing
- Ventilate indoor spaces and isolating at the right time.
Thus, it is breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated. Globally, the risk of the Omicron variant is very high. There is increased risk of reinfection with omicron as compared with other variants of concern. So, it is significant to identify this variant as soon as possible in order to prevent it from spreading.