Fact Check: Unverified information about Omicron variant causes social media panic

Fact Check: Unverified information about Omicron variant causes social media panic
India Today Anti-Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found that though WHO has assessed Omicron’s risk levels to be “very high”, as per latest reports, it is still uncertain about the transmissibility and severity of the strain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Omicron, the new strain of coronavirus, a “variant of concern“. The first case of Covid-19 infection through Omicron variant was reported from South Africa on November 24. WHO and scientists all over the world are yet to fully understand the severity and the nature of this strain.

Social media has already pushed the panic button, and a widely circulated post claims Omicron is deadlier than all other variants and it cannot be detected through RT-PCR tests.

Several Facebook users have posted a long text message attributing it to an unrecognisable doctors’ group. Part of the message says, “New variant B.1.1.529 is named as OMICRON From A Doctors’ group RSA. The virus is back, this time with more energy, tactics and camouflage. We don’t cough, No fever, it’s joint pain, weakness, loss of appetite and Covid pneumonia! Of course, the death rate is higher, it takes less time to get to the extreme. Sometimes no symptoms “

“The strain is not domiciled in our nasopharyngeal region! It directly affects the lungs, which means window periods are shortened. I have seen a number of patients without fever, but an x-ray report shows moderate chest pneumonia! The nasal swab is often negative for COVID19! There are more and more false pharyngeal nasal tests Covid-19” the message adds.

Fact Check: Unverified information about Omicron variant causes social media panic
© Provided by India Today

India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found that though WHO has assessed Omicron’s risk levels to be “very high“, as per latest reports, it is still uncertain about the transmissibility and severity of the strain. No death due to Omicron has been reported yet and RTPCR tests are still recommended to detect the virus.

The viral posts are saved here.

Is Omicron deadlier than other strains?

The viral post claims that deaths due to Omicron strain are higher. However, as per latest media reports, not a single death has been reported due to the variant so far.

The WHO hasn’t called the variant deadlier either. In fact, as of now, the top public health body is still uncertain about the severity of this strain.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first alerted authorities about Omicron-infected patients, has told “The Telegraph” that the symptoms of the new variant are unusual but mild.

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Dr Coetzee, a general physician for 33 years and also the chairperson of the South African Medical Association, told “The Telegraph“. And “none suffered from loss of taste or smell”, which otherwise is a common symptom for Covid patients.

TheWHO has also said that current PCR diagnostics continue to detect Omicron. In fact, so far, most cases of Omicron infections in South Africa and other countries have been identified only through RT-PCR tests.

What we don’t know about Omicron

WHO has assessed risk levels associated with Omicron to be “very high“. It says that the heavily mutated strain could trigger Covid surges globally, which could have severe consequences in some places.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, while speaking at the special session of World Health Assembly, said, “Omicron’s emergence reminds us of how perilous and precarious our situation is.”

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues & wars take people equally by surprise.”

Omicron’s emergence remind us of how perilous & precarious our situation is. We should be wide awake to the threat of this virus. #WHASpecial https://t.co/QHvdd6SoGJ pic.twitter.com/lSougJ0gts

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 29, 2021

But there are several aspects of the strain that WHO and researchers the world over are still looking into. WHO is still uncertain about the transmissibility and severity from Omicron. It is still not known whether vaccines will protect us against this variant.

Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination are still advised by WHO to fight against Omicron.

Omicron has raised concerns worldwide as it has spread to some European countries too after South Africa. But the viral claim is exaggerated and these are repetition of similar claims made about the Delta variant that AFWA had earlier debunked.

Most of these claims are still unfounded or not documented yet in the case of Omicron. Hence the viral claim is misleading.

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