The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has spread fast worldwide. In several countries, it has become the dominant strain and is driving COVID waves in many nations. The thing about this heavily mutated strain is that although termed as mild, it is highly infectious, meaning it spreads rapidly among people. The reasons are being studied by researchers across the world. A study conducted in Japan might explain to some extent the high transmissibility of Omicron. According to it, the variant stays on the skin for 21 hours and plastic surface for over eight days. It stays longer on these surfaces than any other known variant of the novel coronavirus.
Omicron Stays Longer Than Other COVID Strains: Study
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The study was undertaken by researchers at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan. It was aimed at analysing the difference between the viral environmental stability of the original coronavirus strain found in Wuhan, China, and the other variants of concern (VOCs) that were discovered after that. Here’s what the study found out:
- Firstly, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron variants of COVID-19 have over two-fold longer survival on skin and plastic compared to the Wuhan variant.
- Omicron, specifically, stays for 21 hours on the skin and over eight days on the plastic surface.
- Compared to it, the original strain stays on the skin for 8.6 hours and plastic for 56 hours.
- The Alpha variant, which was first found in the United Kingdom, persists on the skin surface for 19.6 hours and on plastic for 191.3 hours.
- Similarly, the Beta variant, first discovered in South Africa, stays on the skin for 11 hours and plastic for 156.6 hours.
- The Gamma variant, discovered in Brazil, survives on the skin for 11 hours and plastic for 59.3 hours.
- The virulent Delta strain, which was first discovered in India and drove the deadly second wave in the country, survives on the skin for 16.8 hours and plastic for 114 hours.
- The high persistence of these VOCs on these surfaces could increase the risk of contact, thus transmission and spread, the study’s authors noted, a leading news agency reported.
- Among all these VOCs, Omicron had the highest environmental stability which could explain its rapid spread and its ability to replace other variants, they added.
- The survival times of Alpha and Beta variants were found to be similar, which is consistent with earlier research.
- Good news: all VOCs were rendered ineffective on the skin about 15 seconds after being exposed to 35% alcohol. This highlights the need to take proper care of hand hygiene.
Take Care Of Hand Hygiene In Preventing COVID Contraction
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Taking good care of hand hygiene is vital in the fight against the COVID pandemic. According to the Ministry of Health:
- Wash your hands thoroughly especially after coughing and sneezing, before and after caring for a sick person, before and after preparing and eating food, etc.
- Similarly, use an alcohol-based sanitiser, the importance of which has been highlighted by the Japanese study.
India is amid the third COVID wave and the spread of the Omicron variant. A highly infectious disease, you must take steps to protect yourself from getting infected. Hence, wear a mask when you go out, avoid crowded spaces, practice social distancing and take proper care of your hand hygiene. It’s extremely crucial to get vaccinated. It’ll not prevent infection but will protect you from getting severely ill and even dying. Hence, get your two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, if you haven’t got it already, and get the booster dose if eligible. In India, healthcare and frontline workers as well as those above the age of 65 and with co-morbidities are eligible to get the third shot. By doing these, we can rein in the COVID pandemic.
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