The new omicron variant is COVID-19 in overdrive. It’s the quickest attacker yet and the hardest to detect with the tests we have. While the original form of SARS-CoV-2 was slow in developing symptoms after exposure, omicron takes only three days to cause illness.
According to The Atlantic, the exposure-to-symptom time, called the incubation period, for the alpha version is about five days, and for the delta variant it is four. The briefer the incubation period, the more likely the virus will spread, say experts. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, explains that a shorter incubation period “makes a virus much, much, much harder to control.”
As COVID-19 testing in the United States remains infuriatingly slow, expensive and hard to find, it is going to be harder to track omicron. The Food and Drug Administration even found certain at-home tests unable to detect omicron. They are manufactured by Applied DNA Sciences, Meridian Bioscience, and Tide Laboratories.
The World Health Organization designated omicron as a variant of concern at the end of November and since then it has been spreading globally. At an office party held in Oslo, Norway 80 people may have caught or transmitted the virus, says The Atlantic.
Scientists found that after the Oslo event people came down with symptoms typically three days later. Even worse, almost everybody had been vaccinated and received a negative antigen test result two days prior to the event.
A Harvard University study found that omicron easily penetrates human cells in a dish, and other research from Hong Kong revealed that the newest variant multiplies dozens of times faster than delta. While immunologists say that those who are vaccinated or have natural immunity may be able to mount a defense against omicron, its speedy incubation period may inhibit that ability. The faster omicron attacks the body, the more of a head start it has against our immune defense system.
“Omicron is coming like a tsunami. It is much more infectious than delta and will rip through the nation,” Jeremy Levin, founder and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics, and author of Biotechnology in the Time of COVID-19, tells Newsmax.
“The variant takes up residence in the lining of your nose and it spreads simply by breathing. It is NOT benign, despite early reports. In fact, early reports from around the world are showing soaring hospitalizations as the virus takes hold,” adds Dr. Levin.
The expert warns that the omicron surge means taking special precautions.
“Younger people are less affected, but all age groups are being hit. Vaccinations and boosters do mitigate its effects,” he says. “But unless you are vaccinated and masked, travel in airports, trains, buses, and being in crowded spaces will expose you to significant risk.”
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