For the past two years, our world has been grappling with a new age pandemic – COVID-19. Despite public health officials’ warnings and the availability of a vaccine, folks still find a reason to doubt the severity of this illness and the dire need to protect ourselves against it. This is especially true in terms of the new variant, Omicron. Throughout this article, we will be presenting factual information, in hopes to provide proof that Omicron is not that mild.
What is Omicron?
First and foremost, it may help folks to fully understand what exactly Omicron is. Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a variant of the original COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus. This variant was first discovered in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24th, 2021. However, many European countries have argued there were apparent cases there first. Since then, this variant has gone on to infect folks on nearly every continent.
This image indicates the number of confirmed Omicron cases from data was made available on November 29th, 2021 – not even a week after the first reported case. This indicates how highly transmissible this variant is.
Symptoms of Omicron
Since Omicron is a new variant, there are still many tests ongoing to verify all known symptoms and reactions. At the moment, it’s known that Omicron produces similar symptoms to other variants of COVID-19. However, Omicron is not known to produce the usual loss of taste and smell.
The top reported symptoms are:
- Runny Nose
- Fatigue (Mild or Severe)
- Sore Throat
However, an oddity reaction that has been commonly reported in cases of Omicron is night sweats. This is not consistent with any other form of COVID, showcasing how the disease has adapted and mutated from variant to variant. Folks experiencing any of these symptoms should immediately contact their local health unit and submit themselves for testing.
Why is Omicron Not That Mild?
For those who are unaware, the reasoning behind the terminology “coronavirus”, is due to the unique spike proteins attached to the body of the virus. These spike proteins create a “crown-like” structure on the virus, hence the name. In the case of the mutated variant, Omicron, these spike proteins have become more active and dangerous.
With this particular variant, it’s been proven that it’s composed of more than 40 mutated spikes – more than double the number that the Delta variant carries. This makes it incredibly dangerous, as it heightens rates of transmissibility and reinfection. Here is an image, depicting the difference in protein spikes between the two variants.
Essentially, these spike proteins work as the key to unlocking our cells and infecting us with the virus. Similarly, they are the binding material, allowing the virus to latch on and continue the infection. The issue with the Omicron spikes is that we aren’t presently aware of just how impactful they are. This is particularly prevalent in cases of double-vaccinated and boosted folks, catching this strain of COVID-19.
Highest Transmissibility Rate
The most startling factor about the Omicron variant is the rate at which it spreads. In comparison to the Delta variant, Omicron is known to multiply around seventy times faster in the bronchi – your lungs airways. It’s quickly become the more dominant strain across the globe, proving its level of contagiousness.
Less than a month since Omicron had been discovered, it had already spread to nearly every continent – infecting the population of over 100 countries. The following image showcases known cases of this variant across the globe, as of December 20th, 2021.
This image is an eye-opening comparison to that of the first map we showed. Only a few weeks later, the number of affected countries and cases has multiplied drastically.
Unaffected by the Vaccine’s Antibodies
Cases of Omicron infecting those who are fully vaccinated and received boosters are skyrocketing. This is very alarming, as it means our current vaccine is having difficulties keeping up with these mutant strains. The variant is seemingly unaffected by the antibodies within the vaccine, as it is still able to infect those who’ve had three doses.
Omicron has been known to have a lesser effect on those who’ve been infected that were vaccinated. Many claim that there is a consistency between the feeling of Omicron and a harsher cold. While this is positive in the sense that it lessens the number of folks requiring ventilators and the overall risk of fatality, it does not take away from the transmissibility.
Despite the lesser effect on vaccinated folks, this variant is very dangerous to those who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, elderly, etc. These are people who either chose not to, or cannot, have the extra layer of protection provided by a vaccine. While vaccinated folks may not have a severe reaction to being infected with the disease, those who do not have the antibodies, are at a larger risk.
If we continue to allow variants like Omicron to multiply and mutate, there will be no end to this pandemic. Omicron can spread rapidly and infect even those who have been vaccinated, which means that infection rates will continue to rise. This will result in a greater overburden on our already exhausted medical systems. At the same time, Omicron is a stark reminder that as diseases mutate, they become more difficult to combat.
For those still looking for more of an explanation on why Omicron should not be thought of as mild, try watching the following video to gain further insight.
How to Protect Yourself From Omicron
The main way to protect yourself from Omicron and future variants of COVID-19 is to get fully vaccinated and your booster shot as well. Vaccines are the number one reason that major diseases and illnesses are eradicated. One can look at past pandemics like Polio and see how miraculous the vaccine was considered to be.
Other ways you can continue to protect yourself and those around you are:
- Avoid Crowding/Close Contact
- Continue to Keep Enclosed Spaces Well Ventilated
- Wear Well-Fitting Masks in Public
- Clean Your Hands Frequently
Furthermore, in the case of Omicron, the WHO has now recommended the use of N-95 masks, as opposed to cloth.
In conclusion, Omicron is a variant heeding the significant warning. With this strain of the virus being so new, there is still much to research. We’re very much unaware of the long-term effect catching this virus can have on the body, even if hospitalization is not required.
This variant is highly transmissible, infecting large portions of the world and becoming the dominant strain within only a month. It is an increasingly mutated variant, that’s begun to have differing short-term symptoms. This all proves the importance of both the vaccine and following public health guidelines.