New Omicron COVID-19 variant has health professionals scrambling

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske, Unsplash.

As of November 2021, the deadly coronavirus has taken the lives of more than five million people worldwide and more than 700,000 in the United States alone. Now, a new variant poses a greater danger to humanity considering how the first U.S. case of Omicron had been detected on Dec. 1 in California.

Originating in the Netherlands and originally detected in South Africa, the Omicron variant has inspired multiple countries such as the U.S., Australia and Greece to implement travel restrictions on each respective nation. Thought to possibly be more contagious than the original virus, it has been detected in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong. Not only is it imposing great risks on our health, but global markets as well. 

The way in which this variant developed into its current state is still unknown. However, it is important to note that Western and wealthy countries have hoarded distributions of vaccines, leaving others such as South Africa to experience vaccine delays and shortages. Experts have stated that the rush of some countries to impose travel bans and border closures is premature and hurts African countries that have already suffered from insufficient resources. African tourism is already at a decline, subsequently damaging the economy.

World leaders and top medical advisers are scrambling to protect citizens. This not only requires travel bans, but mandatory quarantining and a great urgency to get residents vaccinated. France has suspended arrivals from seven southern African countries, despite the fact that the new variant has not been detected in the country yet.

“We don’t know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern [and] seems to spread rapidly,” President Joe Biden said to reporters

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries to boost their surveillance and sequencing efforts in order to better comprehend the dangers of the variant.

“When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said during media interviews.

It is not known yet if immunity against the Omicron variant is possible. 

For those who have not gotten any of the available coronavirus vaccines, the Omicron variant may cause worse symptoms than its original strain. 

“This thing is a Frankenstein mix of all of the greatest hits,” said Moderna’s president Dr. Stephen Hoge during media interviews, referring to the variant’s many concerning mutations. “It just triggered every one of our alarm bells.”

Although there is little information regarding the Omicron variant, one thing is for certain: the coronavirus pandemic will unfortunately not end anytime soon.