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How Dangerous Omicron is?

IANT Spreading Knowledge

Did you know how COVID -19 variants are Named? Alpha, Delta, Gamma, Beta & Omicron!

22nd March 2020. An event, we never imagined, and that happened – The country-wide lock-down due to COVID-19. At first, we thought that it is just a matter of a few months. Over some time, it turned up to be beyond our imagination. The fight is still on…

Our students were initially happy about the Coronavirus. Everyone was at home. Students were not forced to study by their parents. Schools and colleges were closed. But how many days students would keep themselves at home? Soon the students felt like they were in jail and they wanted to go out and play, meet friends, go to the food joints, and so on. Parents were skeptical to send their children out of the home.

We headed towards a New Normal – Wearing Masks, Maintaining Distance, and Washing our hands. Saw a lot of deaths, people waiting for ambulances, and running out of oxygen. Do you think that all these will stop the human race? No, not at all! The human being will evolve. We started with online studies. Initially, faculties were facing challenges in delivering the content and the students were struggling to understand. Over some time, both faculties and students got matured. The moment things were settling down, the Second Wave arrived. It created havoc. Everyone panicked. Many died. This period also passed. Today we are facing the next wave. The wave of the latest variant of Coronavirus, the Omicron!

Students and Parents – this variant is of concern and not to panic! It is OK to get worried about the changing COVID situation but it should not get into our heads. The magic mantra to fight this variant is – BE INFORMED! BE CAUTIOUS! BE RESPONSIBLE!

What safety precautions parents should take before sending their kids back to school? As parents, you should visit the school once to check their preparedness. Is the school ready to follow all the COVID-related protocols? Will there be any medical team available on the premises? If, a visit is not possible ask for a virtual tour. Also, educate children to take responsibility for personal hygiene. Keep a vigil on their health. The signs of Omicron are yet to be confirmed. But, on a safer side check for the signs of fever, nasal congestion or runny nose, cough, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, Diarrhoea.

What to do if your child is exposed to Omicron? Find out how the school will communicate when a positive case happens. Plan for isolation of family members. The priority is to protect family members who are at risk of severe illness, such as those with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions.

As a student, what will be your responsibilities to be safe? The first and foremost – Practicing safe distance. This will help in reducing the spread. You should wear a mask. Your mask should be labelled so it’s not confused with another student. Avoid putting a finger in the nose or mouth. Keep hands clean. Wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizers. Stay home if you are sick.

We are cautious and we are preparing ourselves for the Omicron wave. Will it not be a thought to be informed about Omicron? What is Omicron? Omicron (scientific name B.1.1.529) is the new COVID variant, first reported by South African scientists to the WHO on 24th November 2021. This is a highly mutated variant. WHO classified it as a “Variant of Concern” (VOC). The previous VOCs include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Early data suggests that Omicron may be associated with an increase in transmission rate and a decrease in vaccine effectiveness or evasion of immunity acquired through previous COVID infection or vaccine.

Students, a trivia for you. Do you know, why this coronavirus is named Omicron? The WHO has been using Greek letters to refer to the most widely prevalent coronavirus variants, which otherwise carry long scientific names. It had already used 12 letters of the Greek alphabet before the newest variant emerged in South Africa. After Mu, the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet, it skipped the 13th & 14th letters Nu & Xi respectively and selected the 15th letter Omicron. Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’ while Xi was not used because it is a common last name.

Omicron In India – The first known case of Omicron was reported in India on 1 December 2021. Since then, several other cases have been reported in Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Tamilnadu, and West Bengal.

Are the Omicron symptoms are different than the other COVID variants? No unusual symptoms reported as yet. Omicron symptoms would mostly be fatigue. It would be body aches & pains. Some of them got quite a severe headache & tiredness. But nobody mentioned the loss of smell/taste, severely blocked nose, or severe temperature. Some people may have no symptoms.

Is Omicron supposed to cause more severe disease or worse symptoms? No alarming concerns raised so far. However, unlike previous variants, most cases with Omicron are mild. Patients are younger people. Perhaps because this age group is more socially active and has higher social interactions. However, severe COVID-19 cases typically present a few weeks after the initial symptoms associated with mild disease. So practice caution!

Parents are you aware of whether currently available RT-PCR Tests detect COVID infection with Omicron? Yes, just like other COVID variants. RT-PCR can detect COVID infection but not the type of variant causing it. Confirmation of the variant only comes through genome sequencing. RT-PCR tests typically detect at least 2-3 different COVID genes. This serves as a backup in the case of a mutation arising in one.

Are current COVID treatments still effective against Omicron? Yes! No change has been reported yet in current COVID-19 treatment protocols and therapeutics. However, additional scientific studies are in progress to understand whether some specific drugs would work against the variant or not.

Will the immunity gained through vaccines or natural infection remain effective? Based on current understanding, vaccines remain effective to prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and deaths. However, infections in fully vaccinated breakthrough infections and previously infected (re-infections) people are possible. Note – The breakthrough infections and re-infections are possible with previous variants as well.

Parents, do not doubt about vaccines. COVID Vaccination is crucial. Vaccination and natural infection lead to the formation of neutralizing antibodies in the body. Mutations may make it harder for these antibodies to target and kill the virus. However, immunity acts by neutralizing antibodies and by T-cell response. T-cells are a type of immune cell that can target and destroy viruses. This cellular immunity, beyond antibodies, continues to impart protection.

Do your bit to stay safe. COVID-appropriate precautions work against all variants including Omicron. Along with getting vaccinated, FOLLOW the 4 Ws:

  1. Wear Masks Well, Covering your Nose, Mouth, and Chin.
  2. Wash Your Hands Often.
  3. Watch The Distance
  4. Well-ventilated Surroundings

3 things to keep in mind about Omicron:

  1. Viruses keep mutating, it’s natural. No need to panic or overreact to that
  2. Testing and vaccines work. Get tested if you see symptoms.
  3. Isolate and seek treatment if you test positive. Don’t ignore the symptoms.

AIIMS Delhi director Dr. Randeep Guleria has said that there are only two ways to prevent the spread of the virus:

  1. Vaccination
  2. COVID-appropriate behaviour (CAB)

BE INFORMED | BE CAUTIOUS | BE RESPONSIBLE

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