The new Omicron variant took only a few days to meet the alarming predictions of how infectious, however scientists do not know for sure if the virus can cause more severe diseases even though the world is facing the threat of a COVID epidemic just prior to the Christmas season.
“Everything is riskier now because omicron is so much more contagious,” said Dr. S. Wesley Long who is the director of the lab for testing located at Houston Methodist Hospital — and in the last week has cancelled several plans to prevent exposure.
Omicron currently is the predominant type that is being used in this region of the U.S., federal health officials announced Monday, accounting for around three-quarters or more of the new infections in the last week.
Five states are yet to establish that they have the new variant, but this is because it’s not within their boundaries: Montana, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The speed with which omicron’s rate of growth is faster than the very infectious delta variant is astonishment to health professionals in the public sector. Within three weeks, omicron is now a major factor in 80percent of all new cases of symptomatic disease that are diagnosed by Houston Methodist’s test sites. The delta variant took three months to reach this mark, Long said.
The ability of the strain to spread faster and bypass immunity was a problem at the moment, right when travel was increasing and a lot of people lowered their guard.
However, what the omicron waves will be able to mean for the world is yet to be determined because so many issues remain unanswered.
This is the most recent information on what’s known as well as what’s left to be learned about omicron.
HOW MUCH PROTECTION DO VACCINES OFFER?
Vaccines available in the U.S. and around the world don’t offer the same level of protection against omicron as they did previously against the coronavirus. However, vaccines still help — a lot. Tests in the lab show that while two doses aren’t sufficient to stop infection A booster shot with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can produce antibodies that fight viruses capable of combating Omicron.
The levels of antibodies naturally fall with time, but an booster boosted them up, this time by 25 times in the case of Pfizer’s second shot, and 37 times for Moderna’s. It is unclear what the level that is considered high enough -and how long before levels of antibody begin to drop once more.
After a booster, protection against omicron infections is still around 20% less than the protection for that delta-type variant as per the researcher Dr. Egon Ozer of Northwestern University.
However, if the virus moves beyond the first line of defense the people who have been vaccinated are protected by an additional layer of security.
“The vaccines are going to protect you against severe disease, hospitalization and death,” said Houston Methodist’s Long. “And that’s really the most important thing.”
The extra defenses are T cells that are activated to fight off the virus, and memory cells that, when activated, begin to produce stronger and more powerful antibodies.
WHAT ABOUT NATURAL IMMUNITY?
An earlier infection isn’t likely to offer any protection against an omicron-related infection however, as with vaccination, it can lower the risk of a serious disease.
The study was conducted in South Africa, where omicron already has spread throughout the country researchers have reported a rise in the number of reinfections they had not previously seen in the two previous mutants, including delta circulated through the country.
In Britain the report by The Imperial College of London on Friday revealed that the risk of re-infection due to the omicron strain was five times more when compared with the earlier delta-type.
Health experts recommend that those who have had a successful battle with COVID-19 is still recommended to get the vaccine since the combination typically provides greater protection.
WHY ELSE DOES OMICRON SPREAD SO FAST?
Scientists are working to unravel the myriad of mutations the omicron gene carries in order to determine the other causes.
Researchers from Hong Kong recently reported hints that omicron might increase in speed throughout the airway that delta but not as deep into the lungs.
What scientists aren’t able to measure is the human behavior. A lot of places had relaxed limitations, winter-time forced gatherings inside, and travel been a huge increase right when omicron was expanding.
IS OMICRON CAUSING MILDER ILLNESS?
It’s not yet too late to be able to tell — particularly since if those who have been vaccinated suffer a major infection, it will be less severe than when Omicron is attacking non-vaccinated.
Initial news reports coming out of South Africa suggested milder illness However, doctors were not sure if this was due to the fact that the population is young or whether people in the majority of cases had some form of protection from a delta infection that occurred recently.
It also notes that a British study did not find any evidence to suggest that omicron is more mild that delta Britain in spite of young adults whom one would expect to have a milder illnesswith more frequent infections with the omicron.
“There’s a hint, and I think many of us are hopeful, that omicron will be less severe. But I don’t think we can bet the farm on that. We’re still talking about SARS CoV-2, a virus that has killed millions of people,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who studies variants in a research collaboration which is led by Harvard Medical School.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
Based on the characteristics that other variations exhibit, “if you’re older, when you’re suffering from underlying issues and you’re overweight then you’re more likely to be suffering from severe diseases. I don’t believe it’s will be different” from other variants explained Professor. Carlos del Rio of Emory University.
Even when you’re not sick, an infection with omicron will certainly ruin your holiday. Experts believe that along with having your vaccinations and boosters in the right direction, you should get back to basics for protection: wear masks inside and avoid crowds, and stay clear of crowds.