Why are government officials and healthcare professionals so concerned about this new variant?
Here’s everything you need to know about Omicron.
Why is it called Omicron?
Omicron’s scientific name is B.1.1.529, but to help the general public a new naming convention has been developed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) labels variants based on the Greek alphabet. The previous variant was called Delta, which is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.
Is it dangerous?
Omicron was discovered in South Africa on November 24, so there’s still a lot to learn about how dangerous it could be. What WHO officials know so far is that the variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are cause for concern.
According to the WHO, “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to other VOCs.”
New # COVID-19[FEMALE[FEMININE The viral variant – Omicron – has a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern. That is why we must accelerate our efforts to #VaccinEquity ASAP and protect the most vulnerable everywhere. https://t.co/b9QBMJXtJl
– Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 26, 2021
In South Africa, the number of cases of the variant is increasing in all provinces of the country. WHO also suspects that the variant might have a growth advantage over previous variants due to the current detection rate.
These factors led to the designation of variant of concern as opposed to variant of interest.
How are countries responding?
WHO has offered advice to countries on possible measures to reduce the risk of the variant spreading.
Suggestions include improving surveillance and sequencing efforts to get a clearer picture of circulating variants, performing field investigations and laboratory evaluations, and reporting of cases and groups associated with VOCs. at WHO.
As a precaution, Canada has announced specific travel restrictions to prevent the risk of the spread of Omicron.
What you can do
WHO suggests following current public health guidelines, including wearing a properly fitted mask in public, maintaining good hand hygiene, ensuring physical distance between others, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoid crowds and get vaccinated.
It is currently unclear how Omicron might play a role in the risk of infection for those who have been vaccinated, but more information is expected to be revealed in the days and weeks to come.
Daily Hive has contacted Health Canada for comment.