Just when we thought we escaped the clutches of the Coronavirus, new variants have popped up and reared their ugly head. Omicron, a new strain that has been identified by South African scientists, was reported by South Africa to the World Health Organization to be of concern on Wednesday (November 24).
Possibly more transmissible, the new COVID-19 variation has been found to have large numbers of mutations and increased risk of reinfection, according to the WHO. After being alerted by South African scientists in late November about the new strain, WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) have been investigating Omicron.
Omicron, scientifically named The B.1.1.529 variant, is being thoroughly evaluated and monitored. Not much is known about the new virus as of yet, however the TAG-VE has discovered that Omicron may have growth advantage upon the strain being detected at faster rates than previous infections, according to the WHO.
Sometimes the unknown ignites the most fear, hence why the ambiguity of Omicron is causing a stir amongst Americans. Many Americans are not afraid of catching the Omicron variant, since many are in denial about the existence of COVID-19, however they’re worried about the current vaccines being ineffective for the new strain.
“Of those aware of the variant, 78% are very or somewhat concerned it will “evade existing Covid-19 vaccines”—something experts have raised concerns about, given its high number of mutations, but has not yet been proven,” according to Forbes.
Piling on the back of the Delta variant, Omicron is pulling up the rear as the new COVID-19 mutation to watch and get prepared for. The 2X more contagious Delta variant became the predominant variant of COVID-19 after the Center Disease for Control and Prevention reported a surge in variant cases back in July.
Since Omicron just surfaced just last week there isn’t any information on whether or not that the newest COVID-19 strain will be more or less severe than other variants.
“Is this making people more ill? There’s no indication that it is. And in fact, there’s some anecdotal information offered from physicians in South Africa that this could be causing milder illness. Now, that could be an artifact of the fact that initial cases seem to be clustered in younger people, perhaps in outbreaks around universities,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS News.
At this point, what is certain is that Omicron will eventually expand past South Africa, making its way to the U.S.
“It’s inevitable that sooner or later it’s going to spread widely because it has at least the molecular characteristics of being highly transmissible, even though there are a lot of things about it that we do not know but that will be able to be ascertained in the next week or two, I believe,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC Good Morning America.