Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529, was identified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization last November 2021. It is characterized by between 26 and 32 mutations in the spike protein, which are located within the receptor-binding domain (RBD). Several mutations are known to contribute to escaping neutralizing antibodies and working to make the variant highly contagious to people. Among all the variants, Omicron is now the most heavily mutated variant that dominates in countries such as Europe and South Africa. The resurgence of different coronavirus strains has been causing disruptions and threats to both the health sector and the economy. Furthermore, scientists have been learning the nature of Omicron to understand the severity of the virus better and mitigate the growing number of infected cases.
According to the WHO’s weekly epidemiological report, as of January 2022, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased by 71% since December 2021. In Europe, weekly infections rose by 65%, which led to a global spike driven by the Omicron variant. Unlike the other variants, Omicron has a higher transmissibility rate and can evade vaccine-derived immunity.
The profound emergence and detection of Omicron variants worldwide underscore the role of robust genomic surveillance systems and comprehensive plans against the health crisis. Countries have been implementing concurrent prevention strategies such as mass vaccination, masking, coronavirus test, quarantines, and travel restrictions to slow down the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, including variants like Omicron. However, the surge has resulted in approximately 9.5 million new cases worldwide due to a decrease in mobility restrictions.
What are the symptoms of Omicron?
Reports show that Omicron has milder symptoms compared to other variants. While there are similarities between the symptoms of Delta and Omicron, the Zoe COVID Study emphasized that the loss of smell and taste appear to be less common among people who have Omicron. Despite that, WHO warns the public not to disregard these. Here are the top five symptoms according to the COVID Symptoms Study, run by health science company Zoe and King’s College London.
1. runny nose
5. sore throat
The Department of Health and Social Care in England recognized the listed symptoms in tracing people most likely to have COVID-19. The public needs to increase their awareness, especially in areas with higher Omicron infection rates, like London. If you have these symptoms, obtain a COVID-19 test, or you can order a COVID home test kit to determine if you are infected or not.
Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Patients
In symptomatic cases of COVID-19, patients are experiencing a variety of symptoms. Thus, it is easier for them to partially determine if they have the virus in their body. Meanwhile, asymptomatic patients are carriers of viruses that do not show any symptoms at all. The Centres for Disease Control estimated that 35% of COVID patients are asymptomatic.
People who have a comorbid and impaired immune system are prone to experiencing the symptoms. However, if you are asymptomatic, there is a much greater chance that you will unconsciously transmit the virus to other people. Hence, getting tested before attending a gathering or traveling outside the country is a must.
How to get tested?
It is essential to assert that you are not a virus carrier. There are two ways to determine if you are infected or not. You can get a PCR test or an antigen test. An antigen test is cheaper, more convenient, and has quicker results. The samples are taken from a person’s nose, throat, or both, to detect viral antigens in less than 30 minutes.
On the contrary, PCR tests are more accurate in detecting low levels of viruses. It is more sensitive, so it undergoes laboratory testing. If you plan to travel, it is mandatory to obtain a PCR swab test to ensure that you are not infected. In Europe, serologic tests are also done. It determines, by blood sample, if a person has developed antibodies after having been in contact with the coronavirus. It is essential to remember that getting tested is an effective way to reduce the transmission and fatality rate of the virus.
Do vaccines work against the Omicron Variant?
Regardless of your vaccination status, it is still possible to acquire infection as the Omicron variant can potentially bypass the protection given by the vaccines. Thousands of cases of breakthrough infection have been detected in Europe, causing concern among the public. Consequently, the rise in hospitalization can saturate health facilities and lead to higher death rates. The more antibodies you have, the more protected you will be. Thus, experts encourage the public to get a COVID-19 booster shot.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, a booster can give 88% protection against variants. If you are already vaccinated, obtain e-vaccination certificates for your family; you can use them for travel medical or fit-to-work requirements.
What happens if you become infected?
If you get a positive result from a test for coronavirus, it would be better to isolate yourself for ten days to prevent you from spreading the virus. Health experts recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. On the other hand, avoid taking unproven remedies as they can cause adverse effects. Indeed, seeking professional assistance will keep you guided and safe from mistreatments and unfavourable outcomes.
Prevention is better than cure. It is vital to strengthen your immune system and take precautionary measures to prevent getting infected. You must stay hydrated, rested, and healthy to mitigate the virus inside your body. As infection rates rise, the European Union has advised its member countries to promote social distancing, require masks, and limit travel activities.
Are you looking for a testing provider?
Harley Medic International is a government-approved testing provider and an expert in COVID-19 testing. They have many locations across the UK, ensuring that a testing centre is near you. Getting a test is as easy as booking online and finding the closest clinic. Visit their website at harleymedic.co.uk to learn more.