Why Omicron spread could be ‘good sign’ for Delta-hit world, Health News, ET HealthWorld

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Why Omicron spread could be 'good sign' for Delta-hit worldNEW DELHI: Health authorities across southern Africa, currently dealing with an outbreak of the Omicron variant, are consistently reporting that the symptoms of the new highly infectious Covid strain are “different but very mild”.

Around 90% of all new infections in South Africa’s Johannesburg are due to the Omicron strain but the death rate and even hospital admissions appear not to be increasing significantly, local media has reported.

Could replace deadly Delta
Some experts are therefore cautiously optimistic that if Omicron turns out to be less lethal but more contagious than the Delta variant, then the new strain may become dominant globally and could actually be a “blessing in disguise”.

Virologist Marc van Ranst said, “If the Omicron variant is less pathogenic but more transmissible, allowing Omicron to replace Delta, this would be very positive news.”

The Delta variant, first detected in India, currently accounts for over 90% of all new Covid cases in the world. All new infections being reported in India are due to the Delta strain, which has higher hospitalisation and mortality rate than its predecessors Alpha or Beta.

The Delta strain was the major reason for breakthrough infections during the second wave of Covid-19 in India. It infected lakhs of people and claimed tens of thousands of lives in a matter of months.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has, however, said there is still insufficient data on how transmissible the Omicron variant is or how severe the symptoms could be.

Hundreds of people in southern Africa infected with the Omicron variant are reporting nausea, headache, fatigue and high pulse rate, but none seem to be suffering from a loss of taste or smell, which has been the case with most other Covid mutations, including the Delta strain.

Spreading fast
The Omicron variant was first reported on November 24 from South Africa, where infections have risen steeply. In less than a week and despite swift travel curbs, cases have been reported from at least 13 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, and the UK.

The Omicron strain has more than 30 mutations – around twice as many as the Delta variant. The mutations may effect transmissibility, severity and response to vaccines.

Drug firms have already started looking into ways to tweak their vaccines to take on the new variant.