Early stage of a variant is always mild, expert warns
The early phase of a variant is always mild, a top scientist warned, amid fears over the new Omicron strain of coronavirus. The expert said we may have a better understanding of the variant by the end of December. Initial data on Omicron suggest it spreads fast but causes a milder illness compared to previous strains. Here are more details on this.
Why does it matter?
The warning is alarming as experts around the world have dubbed Omicron as a milder variant. It is said to be the most heavily mutated strain of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 so far. Omicron was first detected in southern Africa and has since spread to dozens of countries. Further, the United Kingdom recently announced the first death due to the variant.
'Too early to conclude anything'
"It is too early to conclude anything on Omicron at least before the end of December," Dr. Anurag Agrawal told News18. Dr. Agrawal is the chief of Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) which has been sequencing coronavirus genes to detect Omicron and understand how it functions. He said Indians should hope for the best but "prepare for the worst."
What is the logic behind the warning?
In general, the early stage of a virus outbreak is milder as young people become infected first "because they are mobile," Dr. Agrawal told the publication. "However, the wave intensifies as the infection reaches home and starts infecting elderly and vulnerable people," he added. He stated even if Omicron is milder, a high number of cases will "break the entire healthcare system."
WHO issued a similar warning
On Tuesday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had issued a similar warning. "Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems," he told reporters.
70+ Omicron cases in India
India has reported more than 70 cases of the Omicron variant after 12 new infections were added on Wednesday. Cases have multiplied since the first two were reported in Karnataka on December 2. Other states that have registered Omicron cases include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chandigarh, Kerala, Delhi, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. Experts say the actual tally could be higher.