Can Omicron be considered a common flu?

Is Omicron less deadly than earlier variants?

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Omicron variant BA 2.2 Image University of California.edu
Omicron variant BA 2.2 Image University of California.edu

The rapid spread of Omicron, a highly mutated variant of deadly coronavirus across the globe has left a question mark ‘Is this virus as deadly as other variants?’ 

At the time when everyone thought that Covid-19 is just fading away, another variant –Omicron emerged. The new variant was first discovered in South Africa by the end of November 2021 and transmitted at a faster pace across the globe requiring hospitalization when severe. Right from driving the third wave to leading to a rise in daily infection cases, the threat of Omicron was in India. However, compared to the Delta variant the fatality rate of this virus is low but, it is highly contagious. Before delving into the comparison of Omicron with a common flu, let’s understand what Omicron is and how it affects the human body?

What is Omicron?

Omicron, a highly transmitted variant of SARS-CoV-2 is known to have nearly 50 mutations as compared to the original SARS-CoV2. One of the most important areas where the changes are manifest in this virus is the spike protein. This is the part of the virus that comes in contact with the human cells and is highly targeted at the immune system. When compared to the spike protein of other variants, Omicron’s spike protein has 36 mutations – while there were ten in the Alpha, twelve in the Gamma, and only nine in the Delta variants. When attacking human cells, its spike protein gets adhered to a human cell’s receptors ACE2. Its affinity to the receptors makes it highly efficient in infecting cells thereby resulting in a higher rate of reproduction and transmissibility. As the lung cells have a lower level of ACE2 as compared to the upper respiratory tract, the infection in the upper respiratory tract is more severe than in the lungs.

Similarities of Omicron and the common flu

The symptoms of Omicron and what is described as the regular flu are the same where a person affected with any either of these can experience fever, chills, fatigue, sore throat, cough, headache, runny and stuffy nose, weakness, nausea, vomiting, body ache, and shortness of breath. In the case of the common flu, headache, runny nose, and high fever may be common, but, a person is infected with Omicron will likely experience a fever of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit along with a body ache and sore throat – considered as the prominent symptoms.

Is Omicron more dangerous than other variants?

“Omicron is less dangerous, but, more contagious,” – Kraner. As per the researchers of the University of Hong Kong, the multiple rates of Omicron in bronchi are 70 times faster as compared to the Delta. As soon as it infects the bronchi, a passage that leads to the lungs, its multiplication starts within 24 hours. But as it goes deeper into the lungs its multiplication rates slow down. This means that it becomes easy to breathe out the virus particles that occurred during replication in the upper airways. And with a lower number in the lungs, it will cause less severity of illness. On the other hand, breathing out will allow those virus particles to spread rapidly among people thus, dangerously affecting the health system if remained unchecked.

Thus, no matter, if it’s the Omicron or Delta variant, getting infected with coronavirus, can create mayhem in the body. Once entered inside the body, it can impact severely on several cells causing major health issues. Never take this virus lightly just because the fatality rate is low.

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