“This Omicron is really getting bad.”
“Did you see? Another Omicron case.”
You may have been hearing a lot about an Omicron variant recently. It’s everywhere: on the news, on social media, on WhatsApp. But what is the Omicron that has everyone on high alert again, and is it really that dangerous?
Omicron is a variant of the Coronavirus. A variant is a mutation or a different version of a virus. When the virus enters a body, it interacts with it and sometimes that leads to the DNA of the virus changing, thus, creating a new variant of the virus. Most mutations die out and don’t affect the body, but some mutations prove to be more dangerous to the body than the original virus.
So far, there are five other variants of the Coronavirus, the latest being Omicron. All the variants are named after letters of the Greek alphabet by the World Health Organization (WHO) so that it’s easier for everyone to identify the more dangerous strains (Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet – the equivalent of the English ‘O’). This system works as a neutral method of naming these variants, without offending a particular place, religion or group of people.
The Omicron variant is proving to be a fast-spreading virus like the Delta variant, which caused an increase in cases in April and May of 2021. The WHO has called it a ‘variant of concern’ as it is spreading faster than any other variant so far.
As of publishing this piece, cases of Omicron have been reported in 89 countries and are continuing to spread. In India alone, there are close to 781 cases. Many countries have announced lockdown measures to control the spread.
Scientists are still gathering information on Omicron and studying it to understand its effects. According to the WHO and other international bodies have strongly recommended using masks, socially distancing and getting vaccinated.
Vaccines ensure that it is a mild case, even if someone is infected by the virus. Face masks and social distancing cut down the possibility of getting infected by more than 90%.
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