Omicron Update: What does WHO say on symptoms and severity of new Covid variant?

Can Omicron spread faster than other Covid variants, or are the Omicron symptoms similar to that of other variants, here's all you need to know as per the latest WHO update on Omicron.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated on 21 Dec 2021, 6:14 am

(Representational Image: Pixabay)

(Representational Image: Pixabay)

The WHO says that researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron, which is said to have several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves - how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. As several questions are being raised over the Omicron variants, here's the WHO Take on it.

Can Omicron spread faster than other Covid variants?

The WHO says that it is not yet clear whether Omicron is 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.

How severe is Omicron disease infection?

It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta, says the WHO.  Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron. 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.

Are the Omicron symptoms similar to that of other variants?

There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants, according to the WHO.  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.

Can people who have had COVID-19 be re-infected?

Information is limited though preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of re-infection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become re-infected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern.

How effective are the vaccines

The WHO says it 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.

Is PCR test effective enough?

The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.

How effective are the current treatments?

Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron variant, the WHO says.

First published:21 Dec 2021, 6:12 am


IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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