The Omikron variant (B.1.1.529) was first detected in South Africa on November 24, 2021. On November 26, the independent TAG-VE expert group classified Omikron as a COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC). in a short time New variable cases detected in Botswana, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Canada and Israel. The following days came to confirm the infection of Omicron in Austria, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
Omicron – a mutated and highly contagious type of corona virus
Currently, scientists all over the world are conducting research that allows us to learn the whole story Characteristics of the Omikron variant. It is already known that the Omirkon is not a variant of the Delta breed and the line of its ancestors is quite long. It is also believed to be more contagious than previously known variants of SARS-CoV-2. This is due to the large number of identified mutations in the structure of the virus. The B.1.1.529 variant contains more than 50 mutations, of which more than 30 are in a part of the virus called the spike protein. It is a racket-shaped structure used to attach to human cells so that the virus can infect the body. For this reason, Omikron has already been called the “super alternative”.
Omikron mutations are worrisome because they fall into three different categories that can prevent vaccine protection and accelerate the spread of the virus. American virologist Andrew Pekos of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health highlights here:
- Mutations that eliminate antibody binding sites, which may reduce vaccine efficacy;
- mutations that make the virus multiply and enter cells faster;
- Mutations that allow the virus to bind more strongly to certain cells in the airways.
For example, mutations of the delta variant fall into the first two categories, while the third mutation is unique to the Omikron variant. However, another American virologist, Robert Garry of Tulane University, did not believe that the new variant was more contagious than Delta. According to him, Omikron does not have some of the changes that made Delta highly contagious.
What are the symptoms of an omicron infection?
There is currently no information indicating that symptoms associated with the Omikron variant are different from those associated with the other variants. However, there are voices that symptoms may be milder. As stated by the World Health Organization, it will take from several days to several weeks to determine how dangerous it is.
Remember that the standard symptoms of coronavirus are:
It is currently unknown whether the Omikron variant causes a more severe course of the disease than others. However, it must be remembered that all variants of COVID-19 can cause serious illness or death – especially among high-risk groups (newborns, the elderly, the chronically ill).
The virus can be dangerous to children
The initial cases of infection in South Africa were diagnosed mainly among young people under the age of 30 years. Many children have also been infected with this type of coronavirus. Fortunately, most patients experienced only mild symptoms and were not seriously ill. Some people have a high temperature. South African doctors said it would take from several days to several weeks to understand the level of severity of the Omikron variant.
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine
In the current crisis, immunization plays a very important role in limiting the spread of the disease. We must remember that The COVID-19 vaccine prevents severe illness and hospitalization, reducing the risk of death. Because of mutations in viruses, there is concern that the vaccine will not be strong enough to stimulate an immune response. Scientific research is underway in an attempt to define Vaccine efficacy against Omikron. Perhaps this modification will require some adjustments to meet the new variant more effectively.
“We are now in a completely different place than it was at the beginning of the epidemic. I think the population is more immune. Even if it is not ideally suited to a raging virus, the immunity present will reduce disease severity and mortality” Virologist Andrew Pekos of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said.
The companies: Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson plan to test their vaccines against a synthetic version of the virus to better determine their effectiveness. Pfizer’s CEO has already announced that should a vaccine need to be modified, the company is able to manufacture and prepare it for distribution in about 100 days.
Omikron alternative and booster dose
In the face of new reports about the Omikron variant, many people have questioned the acceptance of the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, experts recommend it Get vaccinated on time. A booster dose is given at least 6 months after completion of the full COVID-19 immunization regimen. People over 50 years of age can receive a booster dose as early as 5 months after a full vaccination. Recently, the COVID-19 vaccine is also available for children aged 5-11. On November 29, it was approved by the European Commission, and vaccinations in this age group are scheduled to begin in Poland in December 2021.
How do you protect yourself from infection?
To reduce the risk of infection, the World Health Organization recommends covering the mouth and nose, ventilating rooms frequently, and keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean. In addition, it is recommended to avoid crowded places and keep a distance of at least 1 meter from other people. Cover your mouth and nose if you are coughing or sneezing. For further protection against the Omikron variant, you must be fully vaccinated and take a booster dose.
Restrictions in Poland
In connection with the emergence of the new alternative, the Polish government presented a so-called warning package of restrictions. In line with the recommendations of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control A flight ban has been issued To SR countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In addition, the quarantine has been extended to day 14 for people traveling to Poland from a non-Schengen area.
The restriction alert package also includes a number of national restrictions. In the first stage, it is valid from December 1 to December 17, after which time the government will decide on its continued validity. The list of new restrictions includes, among others, quantitative restrictions in restaurants, shops, sports facilities, family celebrations and churches. For a full list of restrictions, see this article.
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