Omicron is more transmissible but leaves less mild symptoms, why? This says science

Since the omicron variant of the coronavirus was discovered at the end of November, scientists and doctors have identified two features: It is more transmissible than the delta variant, but the symptoms it produces are milder and lead to fewer hospitalizations and hospitalizations.

However, what distinguishes the omicron and its mutations that make it possess such specific properties that it causes it to produce strong, fast waves in which a low complexity is present? Specialists in various sciences have studied both properties, and although it is still too early to have all the answers, they have a fairly specific idea.

Greater strength for infection

Virologist Eugenia Corrales Aguilar explained that the virus replicates in greater quantities. So if a person becomes infected, they will have a higher viral load (the number of copies of the virus) and will spread to others more easily.

“Containment measures remain the same, because the virus continues to transmit in the same way, but the same measures will not be effective, because people around a person with the virus will be more exposed to it than if the person with the virus was producing a small amount,” Corrales said.

For a virologist, it is always necessary to use a mask and make sure that it is in place, without “gaps” that let air in and out, and that they do not move while the person is talking. To this, it must be added that the mask must completely cover the mouth, nose and chin.

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Shorter incubation period

Another characteristic of this virus is that the incubation period (the time from infection until the first symptoms appear) is shorter (four to five days), which means that the virus reproduces faster and a person can be infectious before.

Why is it less aggressive?

As we have seen so far, the percentage of those who develop a complication and need hospitalization is lower. If this is the case, your complications when you enter the medical center will be lower, and therefore the risk of needing intensive care is lower than that seen in the previous variants.

what the subject is about? Corrales explains that the way Omicron attacks differs from that seen in other variants and this leaves patients with fewer complications. This is because The main point of attack is the upper airways (nose and throat) and not the lower (such as the airways and lungs).

The specialist notes that acute Covid-19 disease, in addition to being a systemic phenomenon (in which different organs of different systems are involved), begins with excessive inflammation of the immune system of the lung. In other words, when trying to fight the virus, our defenses are activated and this leads to tissue inflammation.

“Because there are fewer viruses in the lungs, less severe cases are observed. However, this does not mean that there are people who will not suffer from this at all but will suffer to a lesser extent.”

The virologist warns: these milder manifestations are due not only to the fact that the omicron itself has more beneficial properties for our body. In addition, immunity from vaccination and natural infection (in those who were already infected months ago) will make our defense system already trained and fight the virus before it becomes complex.

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The latest epidemic variant?

One of the key questions is whether ómicron will be the last alternative to the pandemic and if the endemic appeal then arrives, as the virus will continue to circulate and lead to outbreaks from time to time, but without the characteristics seen until today.

However, not everyone thinks this way. Mike Ryan, head of emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that the virus still has “a lot of energy” and that the massive circulation the virus continues with allows for new variants to emerge.

When Delta arrived, we thought the virus could not be transmitted more efficiently, and then the Omicron arrived. Ryan noted that new variants could emerge.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for covid-19 for the World Health Organization, noted that Omicron has not completely replaced Delta.

“Delta has kept mutating as well and has sub-variables that we’re watching. The virus is still strong, it will continue to generate mutations and those who adapt best will persevere. I don’t think omicron is the last alternative for concern.”

In addition, Corrales emphasized, for a variant to appear, what the virus needed to do was mutate; The more muted, the more likely there are new variants. To mutate, the only thing required is reproduction, which can easily be achieved in an infectious disease such as that caused by Omicron.

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If the omicron, due to its characteristics in a lot of transition, is the last before it becomes endemic, this does not mean that it will come immediately. The epidemic is on track and it will take months to go from a pandemic to a pandemic.

Do viruses always evolve to get weaker?

Corrales stressed that in recent weeks it has become commonplace to say that every virus mutates to become less aggressive and this is not necessarily the case. There have been cases of variants of other diseases that after mutations have become more aggressive in their symptoms and further complicate people.

“There have been different types of Ebola that have become more severe over time, and there have been chikungunya which has become more transmissible with a mutation. It is hoped to think that the virus, in this case SARS-CoV-2, will become increasingly vulnerable, but It won’t necessarily be that way.”

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