On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern and named it Omicron. First identified in South Africa, this new strain has prompted concern among scientists and public health officials worldwide because of the unusually high number of mutations that have the potential to make the coronavirus variant more transmissible and possibly less susceptible to existing vaccines and treatments. Cases have been identified in 20 countries so far, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Italy, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Canada.
Omicron joins Delta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma on the WHO’s current list of variants of concern. But how is the Omicron variant different from other coronavirus variants? Is it more pathogenic? Are disinfectants effective against it? Here’s everything you need to know about the Omicron variant, according to the experts.
Is the Omicron Variant in the U.S.?
Yes. The United States' first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, 2021 and tested positive seven days later. Federal health officials continue a surveillance program at some of the largest international airports in the U.S. as a part of a broader effort to help identify and contain further cases of the Omicron variant in the country.
How is Omicron Different from Other Variants?
Omicron’s emergence is so recent that it may be a while before experts know whether it is more pathogenic than other coronavirus variants. However, scientists expect to learn much more in the coming weeks. According to a statement from the WHO, there is some evidence the variant can reinfect people more readily.
Researchers in South Africa sounded the alarm on the Omicron variant because they found more than 30 mutations in the gene code for the spike protein, a component on the surface of the variant that allows it to bind to human cells and gain entry to the body.
Meanwhile, other mutations of the Omicron variant, some of which were previously found in past variants, are "concerning" and could be linked to higher transmissibility or could help the virus evade immune defenses, according to a technical brief released by the WHO on November 28, 2021.
"The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high," according to the brief.
It's not yet known whether Omicron causes more severe disease compared with previous variants.
Will There Be More Coronavirus Variants?
As SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 replicates inside people, new mutations constantly arrive. Most of these mutations do not provide the virus with any new advantage. Still, sometimes, mutations can give the pathogen a helping hand by allowing it to spread more readily among its human hosts or dodge the body’s immune response. Still, it’s worth noting the fate of earlier coronavirus variants that stirred concern. The Beta and Mu variants, for instance, evolved the ability to partially evade the body’s immune defenses. Still, neither became a global threat because they proved to be poor at transmitting.
Are Disinfectants Effective Against Omicron and Other New Coronavirus Variants?
In January 2021, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a statement saying that it expects disinfectants on List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus (COVID-19) to kill all strains of SARS-CoV-2 when used according to label directions. This determination is to be expected based on the structure of viruses, which can be split into three classes: Enveloped viruses, large non-enveloped viruses, and small non-enveloped viruses.
Enveloped viruses are surrounded by a fatty layer that breaks apart easily, making them easy to kill with a disinfectant. On the other hand, non-enveloped viruses have tough outer coatings, making them more challenging to eliminate.
SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus containing protein “spikes” that stick through the fatty outer layer, creating the nefarious crown-like spikes on its surface.
A variant resulting from a mutation in an enveloped virus is still an enveloped virus with the easy-to-kill fatty outer layer, and therefore equally susceptible to the germ-killing power of disinfectants as the original virus strain.
In short, the mutation may slightly alter the genetic make-up and characteristics of the virus (the protein spikes, for example), but it does not change the physical structure of the virus. This scientific rationale is the basis for the EPA’s determination that viruses on List N are expected to kill all strains, or variants, of SARS-CoV-2.
Vital Oxide, our all-in-one cleaner and EPA-registered disinfectant, is on the EPA’s List N and is also now tested and proven effective in killing SARS-CoV-2 on hard, non-porous surfaces, with a contact time of just five minutes.
Steps to Disinfect with Vital Oxide During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond:
Before you expose a surface to a disinfectant, a pre-cleaning action is always required. The cleaning process can reduce germs by removing dirt, grime, and residue that can harbor pathogens, but it does not reduce the germ load to the 99.9% level. Once a surface is clean, the disinfectant will be able to do its job. Remember, the disinfectant should always come into contact with 100% of the surface; otherwise, it won’t be as effective.
Vital Oxide can be used to pre-clean surfaces before disinfecting under lightly soiled conditions. Clean and disinfect in two easy steps: Spray and wipe Vital Oxide to clean, then spray and leave behind to disinfect. Just make sure you are applying enough solution to remain wet for the proper contact time. Vital Oxide is tested and proven to kill 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) on hard, non-porous surfaces in just 5 minutes.
Vital Oxide is fragrance-free, dye-free, bleach-free, and VOC-free and kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals, noxious fumes, harmful residues, or alarming safety warnings. Vital Oxide has been used in homes, businesses, hospitals, restaurants, public transportation, and more worldwide to help combat SARS-CoV-2.At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary product that’s powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals or alarming safety ratings. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're all in this together, and we’re here to help.