What does omicron mean and how are the names of the COVID-19 variants chosen?

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After the appearance of the new variant of the coronavirus B.1.1.529, which was named and that on November 26, 2021 it was classified by the World Health Organization () as “worrying”, the alarms went off all over the planet when it was 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.

Yes OK, attracted international attention for its mutations compared to other variants of the , many wonder why it was given that name and what it means. Next, we absolve this doubt and explain how the names of the variants of the coronavirus are chosen.

When the pandemic arrived, before the appearance of new variants of the 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, something that for several experts turned out to be a stigma against the people of those nations.

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It was so in May 2021, the 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, he published .

Following the denominations of the COVID-19 variants in order, WHO named Ómicron to B.1.1.529. 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.

In addition, Ómicron is the fifth VOC identified by the WHO, then Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta of the virus. Two VOIs called Lambda and Mu have also been identified. .

The letter Ómicron literally means “or small”, as opposed to the letter omega, he said. .

Although, the World Health Organization established that the Greek alphabet should be followed in order to name the new variants of the When the new variant was called Ómicron, 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.

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

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