The Covid19 Omicron variant: should you be worried?

    • Brief

    • The Omicron variant is driving a new rise in covid19 cases in South Africa. This virus variant seems to spread more rapidly from person to person.

      The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled it a “variant of concern” and named it Omicron (after a letter in the Greek alphabet). The variant has also been detected outside South Africa in North America, Europe, Asia, and Nigeria, but infections are still small. 

      The Nigeria centre for disease control (NCDC) director-general, Mr Ifedayo Adetifa, has said that there are now six confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Nigeria. All these cases are in people with recent travel history to South Africa.

      Why there is a concern

      Scientists are concerned that there are a lot of genetic mutations in this particular variant, with most of them on the protein spike. The protein spike is the main target for vaccines and treatments developed so far. So there are concerns that available vaccines and medications may be less effective. Research is being carried out to determine this.

      Should you be worried?

      On Tuesday, Mr Adetifa further stated, “There is currently no evidence of community transmission of the omicron variant in Nigeria.” The NCDC is asking all citizens to continue with recommended practices. Get vaccinated, wear a face covering, and practice hand and cough hygiene.

      Scientists in Nigeria are concerned that the country is not testing enough people and that many cases of covid19 (including those caused by Omicron) may be undetected.

      What you can do to keep safe

      You can register online to receive the vaccine (https://nphcda.vaccination.gov.ng/). When you are fully vaccinated, continue to wear a face-covering when in an enclosed space or when going to a public place, wash your hands often with soap and water (or use alcohol hand sanitisers), and cough into your elbow or face covering.

      If you have symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell) or suspect you may have been in contact with someone who has covid19, you should contact the NCDC hotline for Lagos: 08104362132, 08138922135 or 09075804259.

      Go to the hospital of your own accord unless you require urgent medical attention.