COVID-19: What You Should Know About Omicron

COVID-19: What You Should Know About Omicron


The Omicron variant has a high number of mutations (~50) with 26-32 mutations located on its spike protein. Some of these mutations are also found on other VOCs such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

On 26 November 2021, WHO named variant B.1.1.529 as Omicron and designated it as a Variant of Concern (VOC).

Since its first detection in South Africa on 24 November 2021, this variant has spread to dozens of countries globally, including the first case in Malaysia on 3 December 2021.

What is Omicron?The Omicron variant has a high number of mutations (~50) with 26-32 mutations located on its spike protein. Some of these mutations are also found on other VOCs such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.
How transmissible is Omicron?

It is highly likely that there is extensive transmission of Omicron. Omicron is spreading faster than any previous strain, and it is probably present in most countries of the world.

However, it is not yet clear if Omicron is more transmissible (spreads more easily) from person to person compared to other variants, including Delta.

Does Omicron cause more severe illnesses and deaths?

More data are needed to determine if infection with the Omicron variant is associated with more severe illnesses or deaths compared to other variants, including Delta.

Currently there is no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.

Can a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test detect the Omicron infection?

Yes, PCR tests can detect Omicron infections. PCR tests target several parts of the viral genome with one of the targets being the S-gene (that encodes the spike protein).

The Omicron has a mutation at the S-gene, so this part of the PCR test will fail. This is called S-gene target failure and how an Omicron infection is detected during a PCR test.

Does Omicron reduce the effectiveness of the current COVID-19 vaccines? More data are needed to determine the extent to which current COVID-19 vaccines can protect against Omicron infection.
How is an infection with Omicron treated? Treatment remains the same for COVID-19 patients. However, scientists are working to determine how well do existing treatments work.
How can I protect myself and my family from Omicron infection?
  1. Complete your primary COVID-19 vaccination series and booster dose as vaccines remain the best measure to reduce your risk of severe illness, hospitalisations, and death from COVID-19.
  2. Continue to adhere to the prescribed preventive measures (SOP) to slow down and eventually stop the spread of the virus:
    • Wear protective mask because masks offer protection against all variants
    • Practice physical distancing
    • Wash your hands often with water and soap or use 60% - 70% alcohol-based gel, foam, or liquid hand sanitizer
    • Cough or sneeze into bent elbow
    • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
  3. Conduct COVID-19 testing to find out if you are currently infected with COVID-19. Follow the TRIIS guideline:
    • Test: Perform a COVID-19 self-test immediately if you are showing symptoms such as runny nose, fever, or cough or if you are a close contact
    • Report: Report the result of the self-test (negative, positive, or invalid) immediately on the MySejahtera app
    • Isolate: If you test positive for COVID-19, isolate yourself immediately and follow the Home Surveillance Order (HSO) guideline by MOH
    • Inform: If you test positive for COVID-19, inform your close contacts and family members
    • Seek: Get immediate medical treatment at a health facility if your symptoms worsen such as difficulty breathing or high fever during isolation and home quarantine
  4. Delay your travel plans to countries with high Omicron infection rate. Stay vigilant and up to date with the latest travel guidelines from Ministry of Health Malaysia or WHO.

As part of our commitment to better serve the community, we are providing COVID-19 Drive-Thru Screening Services. Book your appointment with us to get your PCR test via the drive-thru service at Gleneagles Hospital.

Resources:
  1. Kenyataan Media KKM 04/01/2021: Perkembangan Semasa Varian Baharu Omicron (B.1.1.529) dan langkah-langkah Kawalan Serta Pencegahan di Malaysia. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://covid-19.moh.gov.my/semasa-kkm/2022/01/perkembangan-semasa-omicron-b11529-dan-langkah-kawalan-dan-pencegahan-04012022
  2. Varian Omicron. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://covid-19.moh.gov.my/variancovid/omicron
  3. Classification of Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://www.who.int/news/item/26-11-2021-classification-of-omicron-(b.1.1.529)-sars-cov-2-variant-of-concern
  4. Update on Omicron. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron

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