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World is put on high alert over the Omicron coronavirus variant

"Urgent need to increase genomic sequencing test in India to determine if they have been infected by the new Omicron B.1.1.529 variant of concern,"

There are numerous mutations in this variation, some of which are concerning. In contrast to other variants of concern (VOCs), research indicates that this variation has a greater risk of reinfection.  Concerns about transmissibility, immune system evasion, and vaccine resistance have emerged as a consequence of this wide range of variation.

In comparison to the original virus, this variation has 30 amino acid alterations, three small deletions, and one short insertion in the spike protein, 15 of which are in the receptor-binding domain. In addition, it has a number of deletions and alterations in other genomic areas. The Omicron variant has three mutations at the furin cleavage site, which is noteworthy and increases its infectivity.


So far, no unexpected symptoms have been reported with Omicron variant infection. According to the WHO, current diagnostic measures such as PCR can detect the Omicron variant and antigen tests are believed to remain effective as well.


The WHO has advised the countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and not to impose new restrictions on travel and instead recommended a "risk-based and scientific" approach to travel measures. Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving the ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed on the Omicron variant in a meeting on Saturday. The PM emphasized the importance of taking precautionary measures by all individuals and closely monitoring all overseas arrivals and testing them according to protocol, with a particular focus on nations listed as "at risk." In light of the new findings, the PM also urged officials to reconsider plans for reducing foreign travel restrictions.


Highlights -

l   Latest  SARS-CoV-2 variant is named Omicron, after the Greek alphabet.

l   Variant designated as Virus of Concern (VO) by the Technical Advisory Group, WHO.

l   Greater number of concerning mutations.

l   Increased infectivity (ability to produce or transmit infection -  spreads more rapidly).

l   Increased risk of reinfection.

l   No unusual symptoms associated with the Omicron variant, individuals may remain asymptomatic.

l   Variant detected by current PCR tests.

l   Precautionary public health and social measures are emphasized.

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