Over 500 Strains Of Omicron Since It Emerged As Variant Of Concern Last Year

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Omicron was declared as a variant of concern by WHO on this day last year. It has developed over 500 strains since then.

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Over 500 subvariants of Omicron have come into existence sine it emerged last year.

Geneva: On this day last year, i.e. 26 November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the emergence of a new COVID variant – Omicron. This declaration was made just hours after scientists from Botswana, Hong Kong and South Africa shared, in a swift action, new evidences expressing concerns regarding large number of mutations present in this variant, which also happened to differ to a large extent from all the other variants.

WHO release had said, “We were dealing with something new, something different, and something that the world had to quickly prepare for.” Within 4 weeks, as the Omicron wave travelled around the world, it replaced Delta as the dominant variant. It was also identified to be significantly more transmissible than Delta.

By March 2022, WHO and partners estimate that almost 90% of the global population had antibodies against the COVID-19 virus, whether through vaccination or infection.

OVER 500 SUBLINEAGES OF OMICRON NOTICED

Since the emergence of Omicron, the virus has continued to evolve. Today, there are over 500 sublineages of this variant circulating, but not one has been designated as a new variant of concern.

IS IT STILL A VARIANT OF CONCERN?

The sublineages are all highly transmissible, replicate in the upper respiratory tract and they all have mutations that make them escape built-up immunity more easily, as per WHO. However, they tend to cause less severe disease compared to previous variants of concern.

But this doesn’t mean to promote complacency towards the virus as all these sublineages impact the public health in a similar manner and the response that is needed to deal with them has to be strict. Even though these 500 sub-variants are not as concerning as previous variants.

VACCINES HAVE HELPED IN PREVENTING DEATHS

While vaccines reduced the impact of Omicron, they themselves were impacted. As per studies, vaccine effectiveness against infection, disease, hospitalization and death waned (though at different rates) over time. However, protection against hospitalization and death have remained high, preventing millions of people from dying, WHO pointed out.

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Published Date: November 26, 2022 11:20 PM IST





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