In the document of the World Health Organization on the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, sent on November 29 to all member countries, we read that “given the mutations that can confer a potential advantage of transmissibility for the virus, the probability of a further potential diffusion of Omicron globally is high. Given these characteristics, there could be future spikes from Covid-19, which could have serious consequences, depending on a number of factors, including where the spikes will occur. The overall global risk relating to the new Omicron variant is assessed as very high ». On the positive side, no deaths related to the Omicron variant have been reported.
When did the African variant appear in Italy?
The swab of patient zero of the Omicron variant in Italy was sequenced by the Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Bioemergency Diagnostics of the Sacco Hospital in Milan. He is a manager of a large Italian company who returned to Italy from Mozambique with a Qatar flight landed in Rome, at Fiumicino airport. The man then went to Caserta, where he lives with his family, aboard a rental car. When he left Africa, his swab was negative. Having to leave for Africa again for work reasons, the manager returned to Milan aboard a flight from Naples Capodochino. Then he rented a car to go to work and slept in a hotel in the Milanese hinterland. He underwent the usual checks in the company before returning to Mozambique (swab and medical examinations) and tested positive for the Omicron variant. He was placed in solitary confinement, as were the rest of his family. The whole family unit tested positive. There are five other people, between 8 and 81 years old: wife, the two children aged 10 and 9, mother and mother-in-law. All, except children, are vaccinated with a double dose (the mother-in-law also did the third). There are currently six positives to the new Omicron variant in Italy. All have mild symptoms. No positives in the children’s classes.
What are the positive and negative aspects of Omicron?
Among the negative aspects that emerged from the first studies conducted in South Africa is the great ability to spread with a contagiousness that Walter Ricciardi, scientific advisor to the Minister of Health, defined “even higher than the Delta” and the “numerous variations”. On the positive side of the scales, however, there is the information that is coming from the chief medical officer of South Africa according to which “it has no greater gravity”. The first data from South Africa seem to be reassuring, but are still not enough, in the opinion of the scientific community, to let our guard down. Indeed, the level of attention is at the highest levels after the WHO alarm. The mutations of the variant are of concern. Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London (Ucl), wrote in a thread that B.1.1.529 “could have a significant advantage over the Delta”, explaining that “what exactly this advantage is and how the breakdown between immune leakage and greater transmissibility is not yet known. We know that B.1.529 has many more mutations than other variants and that it has mutations seen in other variants that are associated with both increased transmissibility and immune leak. It is the number and type of mutations that concern virologists and immunologists ”. “If it turns out to be a false alarm, then we can reduce the response in a few weeks – explained Pagel -. But this is our window for action. As with the Delta variant (and B.1.1.529 seems to be spreading more rapidly), waiting for certainty runs the risk of waiting too long ».
What symptoms were detected?
Angelique Coetzee, president of the Association of Doctors of South Africa, the country from which the variant comes and which isolated it, reported that people of all ethnicities with a sense of fatigue, children with a rapid heartbeat, without anyone presenting one. of the most typical symptoms of new coronavirus infection, that is, the loss of taste and smell. The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the public institute of reference on infectious diseases, reports that currently no unusual symptoms of the Omicron variant have been reported and that, “as with other variants, some individuals are asymptomatic”.
How does the disease present in the vaccinated?
According to the head of Israeli public health, Sharon Alroy-Preis, the transmission potential of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 is “very high”, but at the same time in vaccinated cases the disease is “very light”. A fact confirmed by Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Physicians Association: the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus “causes a mild disease, without major symptoms”. Also according to the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, “a partial avoidance of the immune response is likely, but it is equally likely that vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalization and death.”