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What does Ómicron mean? – First hour

After the appearance of the new variant of the coronavirus B.1.1.529, which was named Ómicron and which on November 26, 2021 was classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “worrisome”, the alarms went off throughout the planet when it is revealed that it has several mutations that could affect the characteristics of the virus, in addition to its ease of spreading and the severity of the symptoms it causes.

Characteristics that could be known after the analyzes carried out by the council of the Technical Advisory Group on the Evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus, which does not lower its guard and continues to monitor and evaluate everything concerning the virus. And it is not for less, since the cases detected continue to increase, a situation that generates concern in all nations due to what the pandemic represents at this time.

Although Ómicron attracted international attention for the mutations it presents compared to other variants of COVID-19, many wonder why it was given that name and what it means. Next, we absolve this doubt and explain to you how the names of the variants of the coronavirus are chosen.

HOW ARE THE NAMES OF THE COVID-19 VARIANTS CHOSEN?

When the pandemic arrived, given the appearance of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, scientists began to name them by combining letters and numbers, something that was in itself too complex, since the abbreviation referred to the country where it had been identified for the first time. Once, something that for several experts turned out to be a stigma against the people of those nations.

It was thus that in May 2021, the WHO changed the way of naming the new variants and established that the name of the successive letters of the Greek alphabet should be followed, this in order to guarantee simple names that were easy to say and remember.

Thus, one of the first variants with significant mutations detected for the first time in the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, was called alpha and another threatening variant that emerged in South Africa in 2020 was called beta, the Independent published in Spanish.

WHY IS IT CALLED OMNICRON AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Following the names of the COVID-19 variants in order, the WHO named B.1.1.529 Omicron. According to the Greek alphabet, this represents the fifteenth letter. This is equivalent to the short English letter “o” and similar to the “o” of the Spanish alphabet.

Likewise, Ómicron is the fifth VOC identified by the WHO, after Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta of the virus. Two VOIs called Lambda and Mu have also been identified, details La Tercera.

The letter Ómicron literally means “or small”, as opposed to the omega letter, stated La Voz de Cádiz.

WHY WERE NU AND XI OMITTED TO NAME THE NEW VARIANT OF COVID-19?

Although, the World Health Organization established that the Greek alphabet should be followed in order to name the new variants of COVID-19, when the new variant was called Omicron, it skipped two previous letters: nu and xi.

“’Nu’ is too easily confused with ‘new’ and ‘xi’ was not used because it is a common surname. WHO’s best practices for naming diseases suggest avoiding ‘offending any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group,’ “the organization clarified in a statement to Reuters.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE GREEK ALPHABET RUNS OUT?

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Technical Director, noted that if more than 24 significant variants are identified and the Greek letters run out, a new naming system will be announced.

FIVE VARIANTS OF CONCERN

Alpha and beta remain variants of concern. Meanwhile, gamma was discovered for the first time in Brazil, lambda was found in Peru and delta originated in India, which is the dominant one worldwide.

It is followed by other variants called “of interest” that are yet to be evaluated. They are: mu, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, and epsilon.

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