WHO: unclear if Omicron causes severe disease

pharmafile | November 29, 2021 | News story | Sales and Marketing  

WHO has shared that it is still unclear whether the recently-detected coronavirus variant Omicron is more transmissible, or causes more severe disease, compared to other variants. This includes the highly-transmissible Delta variant. Nine cases of Omicron have been detected in the UK, and two in Canada.

WHO shared that initial reported infections were among university students, and that understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant could take several weeks, including whether the variant is more transmissible, causes more severe disease, or makes vaccines less effective. Omicron has an unusually high number of mutations, and scientists believe that some of these are likely to increase transmissibility and vaccine resistance. Scientists will analyse both lab-based and real-world data to assess vaccine efficacy against the new form of the virus.

The UK has taken the precaution of blocking flights from ten countries where the variant has been identified, including Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa. Omicron was designated a “variant of concern” by WHO on Sunday 28 November, and shared that all variants of COVID-19, including the globally-dominant Delta variant, can cause severe disease or death, particularly in those most vulnerable. ­Preliminary evidence additionally suggests that there may be higher risk of reinfection with Omicron.

Anthony Fauci, infectious disease expert, has warned that given stagnating vaccination rates, rising cases and the newly detected variant, the US has “the potential to go into a fifth wave” of infections. As well as in South Africa, Omicron, also called B.1.1.529, has been detected in the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Denmark, and Australia.

Ana Ovey

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