National Institute of Health analysing samples of 3 suspected Omicron cases

Published December 12, 2021
Residents line up to receive a vaccine against Covid-19 at a vaccination facility in Karachi, Pakistan August 2. — Reuters
Residents line up to receive a vaccine against Covid-19 at a vaccination facility in Karachi, Pakistan August 2. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The National Institute of Health (NIH) on Saturday said results of samples of three suspected cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 will be received by Monday (tomorrow).

However, University of Health Sciences Vice ChancellorProf Dr Javed Akram said people should not get panicked because the delta variant, which was being reported in 95pc cases across the globe, was four to five times more virulent than Omicron.

An official of the NIH, requesting anonymity, said samples of three persons were received at the lab on Thursday night.

“Though we get result of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test the same day, genome sequencing which is done to confirm the exact variant of the virus, is a lengthy and complicated procedure. We will get the result by Monday. There can be a new mutation in the virus and we may find a new variant just like Omicron reported in South Africa,” he said.

On Dec 8, the Sindh government claimed that though genomic study had to be done for confirmation the way the virus was behaving in a female patient seemed it was the Omicron. The matter was widely circulated in the media and reported as the first case of Omicron.

However, on Dec 9, the NIH issued a clarification stating that the sample was yet to be confirmed as Omicron through whole-genome sequencing, adding it would be obtained from the Sindh government.

However, in the light of the global situation, NIH suggested to the citizens to get vaccinated at the earliest.

Dr Akram, while talking to Dawn, said the virus should be called Omicron even if had a bit different variation.

“In the PCR test, it has been confirmed that there is dropout of spike gene which is only observed in Omicron. However, a positive factor is that till date not a single death has been reported from Omicron, so people should not get panicked. Vaccines are effective against Omicron and even if people become infected there would be minor symptoms, especially among those vaccinated,” he said.

Replying to a question, Dr Akram said Omicron had 50 variations and was reported in Africa where vaccination rate was just six per cent.

“People should get themselves vaccinated to create herd immunity, reducing the chances of variation and eradicate the virus. Delta is still the most virulent variant of Covid-19 and is infecting 95pc people across the globe, including Pakistan,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2021

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