Ever since the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 towards the closing of 2021 in South Africa, it has continued to spread rapidly, taking over as many as 94 countries across the world. However, the one question that has remained a cause of concern for all scientists is the contagious nature of the newfound variant coupled with its rate of severity.
Omicron 70 times more transmissible than Delta variant
Findings so far indicate that Omicron though spreads faster but does not increase in severity. This was further corroborated by Maria Van Kherkhove, the Covid-19 Technical Lead at the WHO who took to Twitter to inform that Omicron is growing fast in countries where it has been detected while also stating that there will be more cases of the new variant with increased transmissibility.
“There are some early studies from the UK that have looked at secondary transmission. Looking at higher secondary transmission as compared to Delta but again it’s still early,” Kherkove further added.
Deliberating on the issue and also providing an explanation for the above phenomena Dr. Mike Ryan, the Executive Director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said that the transmissibility in Omicron is higher due to a change in the spike protein the protein that attaches to the human cell.
“The Omicron variant has a change in its genetic sequence that has changed the shape and the ability of the spike protein to enter human cells and that’s probably giving it its transmission advantage,” Dr. Ryan said while asserting that full information on this is not yet out.
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Dr. Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD and Consultant Pulmonology and Lung Transplant Physician at Manipal Hospital while citing the study by the University of Hong Kong, said that the virus poses a serious threat to unvaccinated people and also called for a booster dose for the vulnerable similar view was also expressed by Dr. Chetan Rao, consultant pulmonologist of Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad, who said that the severity of disease not only depends on viral replication but also on the host’s immune response namely the vulnerable lot comprising of those who have not been vaccinated, have not been infected yet and those who have co-morbidities.
While discussions on the severity of Omicron are on, the Centre said that there is a possibility that with increasing cases of Omicron variant, the healthcare system will come under strain which is a cause of worry.
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