Several unexplained cases of pneumonia with fever, cough, fatigue, and/or respiratory distress developed in Wuhan, China, within a short period of time in late 2019 and early 2020. Skip to 2022 and the world has still not recovered from the pandemic caused by COVID-19 and its emerging variants.

We’ve all heard of coronavirus by now. One could vaguely describe it as a contagious infection that could cause severe or mild symptoms. But what is not known is that the coronavirus is not a recently discovered virus. 

What is a Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses have existed for a long time and can infect both animals and people. They are a large virus family that targets the respiratory organ. The name is derived from the Latin word corona, meaning crown, due to the spiky fringe surrounding these viruses.

Some of them can infect people, resulting in less severe diseases like the common cold (example: Human coronavirus 229E, human coronavirus nl63, and human coronavirus OC43) or more dangerous infections like the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

The novel coronavirus that emerged in 2019, was named COVID-19, abbreviated for “CoronaVirus Disease-2019”. Its official name is “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” abbreviated to SARS-CoV-2. As the virus spreads, we can expect new variants to occur. Some of these variants can appear and disappear, while others persist.  

What is a variant? 

The virus mutates as it spreads. Covid-19 has mutated to form new variants of the original virus. In different parts of the world, different variations have emerged. More infectious varieties, such as Beta, Delta, and Omicron, may have a higher ability to re-infect patients who have recovered from previous coronavirus infections.

Based on the type of mutation and its impact on human society, the variants are categorised into four.

They are 一 

  1. Variants being monitored (VBM)
  2. Variants of interest (VOI)
  3. Variants of concern (VOC)
  4. Variants of high consequence (VOHC)

Variants of Concern 

Currently, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the new Omicron and the Delta variant to be variants of concern due to evidence of –

  • Increased transmissibility 
  • Reduction in the effectiveness of antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination 
  • Reduced efficacy vaccines or treatments
  • Diagnostic detection failures. 

What is a Delta Variant?

The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is one of the many mutated variants of SARS-CoV-2 and is considered a variant of concern. Before the Omicron variant emerged, this was considered to be the most contagious form of COVID-19. 

What is an Omicron Variant? 

The Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) was recognised as a variant of concern due to its mutations and its impact on society. The Omicron variant was, and still is, spreading faster than previous strains of the virus. It contains more mutations than any other variant so far. Since this variant is different from the other variants, the Omicron test kit also uses a different method of detection

Since the information online can be overwhelming and confusing we’ve selected a few frequently asked questions about Omicron and the variants to help you find your answers easily. Listed below are some of the many 一 

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Why do variants occur?

When a virus spreads extensively and causes a large number of infections, the chances of it evolving increase. The more chances a virus has to spread, the more chances it has to mutate and form variants. 

  1. What is the severity of the Omicron variant?

Early data reveals that the Omicron variant had a lower risk of hospitalisation than the Delta variation. However, the World Health Organisation warns that it should not be dismissed as “mild” since increased transmission would result in more people being hospitalised. This puts a strain on frontline workers and hospital systems, potentially leading to more deaths.

  1. Can people get covid twice?

There are chances of getting re-infected with COVID-19. It can even happen to people who were previously ill and were also vaccinated. The only way to avoid it is to follow COVID’s required safety standards.

  1. What are the symptoms of Omicron?

The Omicron symptom stages usually begin with body aches, generalised fatigue, headache, and fever in the early days, and then one might develop a dry cough, as well as a cold with a runny nose, sneezing, and other symptoms. The cough is usually dry and goes away within a few days. Fever usually resolves within the first three days in 80% of the patients, and if it doesn’t, it’s an indication of a mild to severe infection that needs to be closely monitored.

  1. How many covid variants can there be?

Omicron will not be the last variant the world sees. Every infection gives the virus an opportunity to mutate. Omicron has an advantage over its predecessor as it spreads far quicker than the other variants. The only way to ensure that the number of variants is reduced is by controlling the spread.

  1. What are the covid variants in India? 

In the past two years, India has seen several variants of concern. They are – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron. But there is no guarantee that these will be the last variants of concern the country will see; the newer variants can either cause severe or mild symptoms.

The way SARS-CoV-2 evolves over the coming months and years will determine how this worldwide catastrophe ends — whether the virus evolves into another common cold or into something more dangerous like influenza or worse. Although we cannot stop the virus from mutating, we can slow down the spread and in turn, slow down the emergence of newer variants. So, practice safety protocols, maintain distance, wear masks and sanitise to help end this pandemic. 
If we missed any questions you’d like to know the answers to, leave a comment down below and we’ll give you the information you need! If you need to talk to a professional about your health condition, book an appointment with the best doctors at Ayu Health Hospitals.

About the Author

Dr goel
Dr. S. Goel
MBBS PGDCM FID MBAHHM at Ayu Health | Website | + posts

Dr. S. Goel  is a renowned Internal Medicine Specialist currently practicing at Ayu Health Hospital, Bangalore.  He is a Specialist in Internal Medicine, Diabetes HTN, Paediatric Care, and Family Medicine.