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'Too soon to call Omicron a mild virus', says Karnataka Surveillance Panel Member

The first case of Omicron was detected on November 11 in South Africa, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled as a variant of concern.

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While countries around the world are grappling with COVID-19's new variant Omicron and India has already reported 36 cases, a member of Karnataka’s genomic surveillance committee, Dr Vishal Rao has said that it might be too early to call the mutant a mild virus.

Rao said, "As the numbers increase, the virus may exhibit more virulence." Notably, Karnataka was one of the first states to report the first two cases of the Omicron variant last month and reported its third case today, December 12.

He further said that without substantial data it will be incorrect to conclude that the Omicron variant shows no symptoms or mild symptoms. He said, "Third booster dose is imminent at this juncture and several new studies have emphasised this requirement. At this point, vaccines are the best and the only tool we have."

Regarding the situation in South Africa, where there is a 25% jump every day in ICU admissions and requirement of ventilators, Rao said, "The virus is showing higher transmissibility, escaping immune mechanisms and has started increasing ICU admissions in SA recently."

As per reports, South Africa saw a massive jump in COVID-19 cases in the last month. Rao said, "Their data also shows that people who were previously infected with Delta have also got infected with Omicron, showing the previous infectivity does not confer protection against Omicron completely."

In relation to transmissibility, during the first wave, the virus took two weeks to pass on from one person to another while during the second wave, the Delta variant took one week and now, the Omicron variant takes less than a week to spread from one person to another. 

Notably, the Omicron variant has no resemblance to alpha, beta, gamma or any other known coronaviruses. The first case of Omicron was detected on November 11 in South Africa, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled as a variant of concern.

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