Skip to main content

About New Covid Variant Omicron

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

About new covid variant

Reports that a new coronavirus variant may be more infectious have left many doctors furious.

But some scientists say we should be prepared for the strain, which looks more like normal coronavirus but which they say is significantly more infectious.

Much of the worry is because the variant has already been identified in at least one country. But it's not clear whether that's a coincidence or whether it's the result of evolution -- as scientists try to figure out exactly how widespread it is.

What to know about this new strain? Here's what you need to know about the strain:

Significant spread

The new variant has been identified in the South African city of Durban, along with others in another city in South Africa and the south-eastern city of Port Elizabeth, according to reports. In neighboring countries, too, cases have been reported.

The variant is reported to be 100 percent more transmissible than previous variants. So far, it has led to about 2,400 cases in South Africa.

Early analysis of data from 13 sites suggests that it also accounts for the more than 120 cases of COVID-19 recorded in a Mississippi prison.

But experts say that as more information is found, the size of the variant could be a tiny fraction of the total number of cases in the United Kingdom where a highly transmissible variant is thought to have played a role in its far-reaching spread.

More than 150,000 people have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in the U.K., and the country has reported more than 67,000 cases of this new variant. The World Health Organization says the new coronavirus variants, like many coronavirus variants, have changed the virus' phenotype.

What is the new strain like?

The new strain is thought to have started in South Africa and then likely spread abroad. In parts of the UK, patients reported being infected with the new coronavirus with minor symptoms for no more than a week, including coughing and fever, according to a report from the U.K. Biobank, which is akin to a U.S. database and holds the personal medical records of more than 220,000 U.K. residents.

One person who was infected with the new variant in New Zealand had been in a long-term care facility in South Africa that had positive COVID-19 tests, reports said.

Professor David Evans, who is leading the study that found the new strain, said the strain's clinical symptoms are less severe than past COVID-19 variants. But he still noted that the new strain of the virus has been found to be more highly transmissible.

"We're seeing a mix of respiratory, fever, inflammation, cough -- those all signalled symptoms are present."

So far, there's no reason to believe that anyone has become infected by the new variant as a result of touching contaminated surfaces or coughing, and experts say there is still the potential for transmission to occur through the air.

Scientists say that patients with this strain were found to be between 1% and 3% more infectious than people who had become infected by previous variants.

"My gut feeling is that you might be getting your own version," said Ohio State University's Dr. Mark Deegan, who is also leading the study.

Because some other COVID-19 variants in the world like the highly transmissible variant in South Africa have been reported in people whose respiratory systems have been infected with flu or other respiratory diseases, this mutation may have occurred in people with this particular mutation, said Julie McNeal, a geneticist at Virginia Tech's Broad Institute of the Medical Research Foundation who isn't a member of the study team.

"Theoretically that isn't really that uncommon," she said.

How does the new strain differ from other coronavirus variants?

In the past, scientists have seen variants that are just slightly more transmissible, but that don't tend to circulate in enough numbers to have a major impact on viral transmission, said Emma Raghavan, a viral biologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

If the new coronavirus is more infectious, this could indicate that the transmission process from infected people to others happened even faster than the current circulating variants, Raghavan said.

Although it's too soon to tell, Raghavan said that it's possible that the coronavirus genome will evolve to make it more transmissible, "but not so much as to change the disease severity."

Are there vaccines for this new coronavirus strain?

Scientists are working to determine if there's still efficacy in current vaccines against COVID-19 and whether the current virus strains will also have similar effects on vaccines.

However, "there are definitely additional actions we would do," to protect against the new variant, Raghavan

about-new-covid-variant-omicron

Related Articles