Concerns rise amid Omicron menace

22 Feb 2022 10:20am
According to the Eurosurveillance journal, there are eight main symptoms of Omicron, namely cough, runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle aches including fever and sneezing.
According to the Eurosurveillance journal, there are eight main symptoms of Omicron, namely cough, runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle aches including fever and sneezing.

As of Feb 18, the Omicron variant has spread to more than 77 countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), half a million deaths have been reported since the variant existed in the community towards the end of last year.

The WHO described the death toll as 'a tragic matter in the vaccine era.’ Based on Statista, an international database that analyzes various types of data, the United Kingdom is the country that suffers the most from Variants of Concern with 457,256 cases followed by the United States (US) with 372,890 cases, Denmark (71,831), Germany (48,960), Canada (31,563) and France (30,075).

Omicron which is also known as B.1.1.529 was said to be first detected in Africa and Hong Kong in Nov 2021, which then spread to most countries in Europe, US and Malaysia a month after.

WHO scientists have yet to be able to classify the severity level of the infections on an individual.

However, WHO Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said earlier reports have shown that the Omicron variant is milder than Delta.

“However, do not be fooled, although it is milder, Omicron is able to have an impact on the vulnerable groups especially the senior citizens. If they are infected by any SARS-CoV-2 variants including Omicron, they are still at high risk,” she said during an interview with WHO.

WHO Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove
WHO Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove

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During a question and answer session in Geneva, Switzerland, she said that the variant, which is said to be 70 times more contagious than Delta, would not make a person sick like the Alpha or Delta variants despite its ability to spread faster.

She added, global health agencies have tracked four different versions of Omicron, with the BA.2 sub variant being more contagious than the BA.1 version (which currently dominates cases worldwide).

The transmission of the BA.2 sub variant has spread in several countries in the US and more than 400 cases have been recorded as of now.

Kerhove also said that a researcher in Denmark discovered that BA.2 is 1.5 times more infectious compared to BA.1 and is able to infect the people who have been vaccinated.

Those who have received complete vaccination have a lower rate of spreading the virus compared to those who have not.

“Vaccination remains very effective in preventing serious illness and death, although they do not prevent all infections. I urge people to get vaccinated and wear face masks indoors,” she said.


eanwhile, according to the Eurosurveillance journal, there are eight main symptoms of Omicron, namely cough, runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle aches including fever and sneezing.

"Fever and sneezing are the rarest. Public health experts also added that nausea was also listed as a symptom among the vaccinated individuals," wrote the journal.

ZOE Symptom Study Application founder, Prof Tim Spector told Independent UK another symptom of the variant is fatigue, a common symptom that was seen in Omicron cases when it spread in South Africa.

“People usually suffer from headache, weak muscle, blurred vision and loss of appetite. At the same time, it can also cause a person to faint,” he said.

In a poll by Web MD on Dec 23, 2021 to January 4, 40 percent of women reported that they struggled with fatigue, compared to one-third of men.

Even so, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Johns Hopkins Medicine showed a slight difference with diarrhea being one of the main symptoms of the variant.

“However, it is important to be reminded that diarrhea is not the only symptom for the Covid-19 Omicron variant,” they said.

To what extent the vaccines will protect us from new mutations, Infectious Disease Specialist from the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus, Kristin Englund said preliminary data from Pfizer showed that although two early vaccination doses were less effective against the Omicron variant, the booster dose helped boost antibodies in the human immune system by 25 fold and should offer more protection.

“There is no information on the effectiveness of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines against Omicron, but research by the company is underway.

“Companies that produce vaccines are already studying how vaccines can be modified to fight Omicron. mRNA technology makes it easier to modify vaccines more quickly. If necessary, they can have a new vaccine against the emerging variant within three to four months,” Englund told CNBC.


Will we need a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine? In the US, the question has been answered by White House Chief Medical Advisor Antony Fauci.

Fauci has hinted at the possibility of a need for a fourth dose in the US to combat Omicron.

Meanwhile, Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla told CNBC, a fourth dose is needed after early research found the Omicron variant could affect antibodies.

“The data whether Omicron is well protected by the third dose but for how long? In my opinion, we need a fourth dose. We have to wait and see because we still have very little information about the variant,” Bourla said.

However, WHO has yet to decide whether another booster shot should be implemented globally.

To those wondering, when does the booster dose expire? According to CDC, the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine booster injection decreased after about four months. However, it still provides significant protection in preventing people from getting hospitalized.

In a study, CDC researchers found that booster injections remained highly effective against moderate and severe level of Covid-19 for about two months after the third dose.

Still, it dropped significantly to 78 percent after four months. This is why the study mentions that the additional boosters are needed.

Ultimately, the best way to be protected against the Omicron variant is to get vaccinated but basic approaches such as social distancing, wearing face masks, good ventilation and avoiding congestion in public places are mandatory procedures.