The Omicron variant is the latest scare in the COVID-19 pandemic and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a factsheet on what is currently known about the mutation.
The variant, formerly referred to as B.1.1.529 was first detected in Southern Africa earlier this month. However, according to leading scientists, data exists which suggests the COVID-19 super variant may have been spreading across the world much earlier since, according to Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a Belgian traveller who had visited Egypt and Turkey tested positive for Omicron.
4) I had warned that it was already global outside of SubSaharan Africa when we had noticed the Belgium🇧🇪 case has zero travel to Southern Africa. And it was weeks ago. Millions fly every week from Africa. It was inevitable if we responded late. We need ARRIVAL screenings 👀 https://t.co/jxQiuCYLVO— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 28, 2021
Omicron variant factsheet: Here’s what we know
The global science community is playing catch up with the new variant, believed to be super transmissive, more so than Delta.
Here is a complete factsheet on three key components of Omicron’s impact:
While preliminary data suggests that Omicron may be at least 500% more transmissive than Delta and Beta variants, there is still no definitive answer to how easily B.1.1.529 spreads.
“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.”World Health Organisation
At this time, no formal link has been made between an increase in severe diseases and Omicron in South Africa. In essence, WHO indicated that it is way too early to link the rise in hospitalisations to the new variant since it may be “due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.”
“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.”World Health Organisation
Effectiveness of vaccines
Early into the discovery of Omicron, it’s been confirmed that reinfection is very much possible. However, on the question of vaccine efficacy, scientists need more time to understand the profile of the new variant.
“WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.”World Health Organisation