Much more contagious but milder: What you need to know about Omikron BA.2

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Experts had already emphasized weeks ago: that Omicron has the potential to become the dominant variant of the coronavirus. What does this mean for infected persons? What are the signs of illness? And why is Omicron more contagious than its predecessor Delta? Here is an overview of the most important answers.

Can we expect a new wave of mutations in early summer?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Germany gives an incubation period, i.e., the time from infection to the onset of the disease, of five to six and a half days for the wild type of the coronavirus. However, shorter times apply to variants of Sars-CoV-2. The currently dominant Omicron version BA.2 makes people ill much faster than the wild type of Sars-CoV-2. With the help of studies, it has already been shown for the predecessor variants that the incubation period for the Omicron variants lasts only three days on average. However, it is still too early for reliable data on the BA.2 variant.

Experts have suspected for several weeks that the omicron variant is more contagious than its predecessors. Now there are first data from Denmark. Researchers found that 31 percent of people living in the same household with Omicron were infected, compared with only 21 percent with the Delta variant. Researchers from Japan arrive at even higher figures for the dominant BA.2 variant. According to an unverified publication, people infected with BA.2 infect around 40 percent more people.

Why some people are immune – even without vaccination

Genetic changes in the virus are probably responsible for the better spread of the Omicron variants. Compared to the wild type, Omicron is genetically different in 50 places. Thirty-two of these changes alone affect the so-called spike protein, which allows the virus to enter cells. In principle, single mutations, but especially combinations of specific mutations, can change the properties of viruses. It is possible that changes in the spike protein of the coronavirus can lead to better or worse transmission of the virus. In addition, altered symptoms of covid-19 and general changes in the disease course are possible due to mutations. But so far, there are only indications of this.

Which vaccine also defies corona variants?

Even though Omicron is more contagious than its predecessor, the variant also causes less severe disease overall compared to Delta. According to a study from Great Britain, 30 percent fewer people have to be treated in a hospital because of Covid-19 caused by Omicron. Experts also attribute this to the genetic changes in the spike protein. In addition, there is evidence that the number of deaths associated with Covid-19 is smaller with Omicron infections.

Triple-vaccinated people are less contagious.

It’s impossible to say for sure at this point. However, once Omicron enters the body, it can multiply much more rapidly in the upper respiratory tract, i.e., the nasal, pharyngeal, and tracheal areas, as well as in the thick branches of the bronchi, than the delta virus variant. At the same time, the omicron variants probably do not reach the lower respiratory tract. Physicians see feared pneumonia much less frequently in connection with Omicron infections. Patients infected with Omicron also require less intensive care and less ventilation. The time patients have to stay in hospital is also reduced by three to four days. Nevertheless, experts warn that infection with omicron should not be underestimated.

What can be expected from Omikron XE?

Regardless of which subtype of Omicron you contract, the symptoms are similar to a flu-like infection in mild cases. Infections are more often accompanied by a sore throat and less often by loss of taste or smell than infections with Delta. Many infected individuals first feel a scratchy throat or have a sore throat, usually followed by headache, aching limbs, runny nose, and dry cough. Some also experience fever or chills. An affected voice or feelings of muscle soreness are also possible, as is loss of appetite, fatigue, and night sweats. U.S. researchers at the CDC health agency add to the list of symptoms, calling attention to blue or gray discolored skin and pale lips or discolored nail beds. They call these symptoms emergency warning signs because they are indications of an undersupply of oxygen in the body. Those affected should therefore see a doctor as soon as possible. This also applies to severe breathing problems, persistent palpitations, or severe pressure on the chest.

Booster protection drops significantly after three months.

It is impossible to say in general terms because it depends on several factors, such as age, weight, vaccination status, previous Covid-10 infections, and other pre-existing conditions. However, infections with Omicron BA.2 are pretty comparable to other respiratory infections common before the Covid-19 pandemic. These, too, usually clear up in healthy people after three to five days, or at the latest, after a week. But beware. Infection with BA.2 can also become a severe illness. Anyone who notices, for example, that they can hardly bear weight and get out of breath after climbing just a few steps should see a doctor.

Even fully vaccinated and even boostered people currently become infected with Omicron BA.2, yet vaccinations do what they are supposed to: They protect most people from severe Covid-19 courses. And the duration of Covid 19 disease is also generally shorter in boostered than in twice-vaccinated or unvaccinated people. This is confirmed by data from the so-called Zoe Covid Symptoms Study, which a team of British researchers evaluated and published the results in “The Lancet.” According to the study, Covid 19 disease caused by an Omicron variant took an average of 1.3 days less to develop in people who had been vaccinated twice than in those infected with Delta. However, the researchers saw an even more significant difference when comparing the days of illness in people with triple Covid-19 vaccinations. Whereas they were sick an average of 7.7 days with Delta, the number of sick days decreased by 3.3 days with Omicron infection. The researchers calculated the results based on data from more than 63,000 people. These indicated in an app themselves which symptoms they noticed and how long these lasted.

  • Source: ntv.de/picture: pixabay.com
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