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As time continues to pass the world is learning more about the true impacts that the Omicron variant is capable of for those it infects. The strain has spread around the globe at a frightening pace since it was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) last November. One of the key questions scientists are trying to understand is how your risk of infection from Omicron is affected if you’ve already contracted the Delta strain – so what is the data telling us?
Can you get Omicron after having Delta?
When the Omicron variant surfaced, one of the first concerns expressed by scientists was how far it could bypass vaccine efficacy and immunisation.
This was because of the unusually high number of mutations that Omicron was observed to contain in comparison with previous variants such as Alpha and Delta.
Currently, the available data suggests that you can still contract the Omicron variant even if you’ve previously been infected with the Delta strain.
In fact, one study conducted by Imperial College London identified the risk of re-infection from Omicron is 5.4 times higher than Delta.
Consequently, this finding implied that protection against reinfection by Omicron afforded by past infection may be as low as 19 percent.
The study looked at data provided by the UK Health Security Agency and the NHS for all PCR confirmed Covid tests taken between November 29 and December 11 of last year.
On the flip-side, new research that has emerged from South Africa has suggested that infection with Omicron could help to prevent individuals from contracting Delta.
The small study was published a fortnight ago by South African scientists and followed 13 participants – 11 of whom had been infected with Omicron.
Their findings suggested that the antibody response of people infected with Omicron appeared to increase protection against the Delta variant more than fourfold two weeks after the study had begun.
However, the scientists cautioned that it is unclear whether the increased protection is due to Omicron-induced antibodies, vaccination or immunity from a previous infection.
Moreover, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed by other scientific experts.
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Nonetheless, despite the higher risk of re-infection, preliminary studies have implied that Omicron could be milder than previously feared.
For example, last month another study that was conducted in South Africa demonstrated that people were 70 to 80 percent less likely to need hospital treatment, depending on whether Omicron is compared to previous waves, or other variants currently circulating.
Although, it suggested there was no difference in outcomes for the few patients that ended up in hospital with Omicron.
But it should also be noted that the results from this research were caveated by several factors – including that the study did not take into account the vaccination status of any of the cases it analysed.
The arrival of the Omicron variant escalated the UK’s Covid crisis towards the end of 2021.
To date, more than 200,000 cases of Omicron have been officially recorded since it was first detected on British shores last November.
England has reported the majority of these cases, with 212,019 – according to the latest Government data. The country in the UK which has the next highest level of incidence is Scotland with 13,649.
Indeed, on New Year’s Eve, the UK recorded a further 17,114 new cases of the variant to take the total to 246,780 – correct as of Friday, December 31, 2021.
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