Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology in Russia.
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Two weeks have passed since South Africa first reported the variant of the omicron Covid to the World Health Organization. Now, it is spreading all over the world.
Over the past fortnight experts worked to better understand this mutation, its symptoms, potential causes of illness, and whether or not it will affect the existing vaccines.
Every day more data is available about spread.
Let’s see what we have so far.
As soon as the World Health Organization designated omicron a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26 — just two days after South Africa reported it to the U.N. health agency — the hunt was on for cases of the virus elsewhere, amid concerns that the mutations associated with omicron could make it more transmissible.
The U.S., U.K., and EU among other countries responded to this omicron designation temporarily suspending flight from Southern African countries or placing strict quarantines on all visitors from the region.
Omicron has been spreading rapidly around the world, as well as reports of community transmission in recent weeks. signaling that the omicron variant has likely been circulating more widely, and for longerIt’s more common than we initially thought.
It U.S. CDC said Tuesday that the new variant has now been found in 50 countries and 19 U.S. states.
The first known sample of omicron dates back to Nov. 9South Africa was the first to discover it. It was stated by the WHO that the incidence of infections in this country increased dramatically with the discovery and spread of B.1.1.529. The phenomenon has been observed elsewhere.
Genview Diagnosis Medical Assistants Crystal Leyva and Keitia Peez give Covid-19 testing to technicians at Foxconn Assembly, Houston, Texas on August 13, 2021.
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It is estimated that 1000 people are infected with the variant every day in the United Kingdom. Experts say the virus will be dominant within weeks rather than months.
The Times reported Tuesday that Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College and one of the experts who advise the British government regarding Covid said early data suggest the number of cases of omicrons is more than doubling in three days. Officials are concerned and preparing for an increase in omicron case as winter approaches.
Due to uncertainty around the Covid-omicron variant variant, experts are closely watching real-world data from South Africa. South Africa was among the first to detect the variant.
Some parts of South Africa are seeing an increase in hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant. According to the South African Medical Research Council’s Saturday report, the strain causes milder illnesses. Fewer patients require oxygen and intensive care, as compared with previous waves.
Actually, the report notedThe majority of the patients observed on Covid wards were incident Covid admissions, meaning they had been admitted to the hospital for another reason.
The majority of Covid patients were not vaccinated. Hospitals reported that they had more children and younger patients admitted to their wards. No deaths were reported by the hospitals on pediatric wards in the time period (nov. 14-29).
The region’s experts are looking into the causes of admissions to younger patients, who are more susceptible to suffering from Covid infection.
Additionally, the report warned that “the clinical profile and admissions of patients may change over the next 2 weeks. At this time we will be able to draw greater conclusions about severity of disease.”
Chief medical advisor to the White House Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the preliminary data from South Africa was “encouraging”As it indicated that omicron may not be as severe as first feared, however, he said more data was needed to evaluate the potential risk.
Experts, officials from the government and vaccine manufacturers are all wondering if the new omicron variant will undo all the hard work done by Covid vaccines to lower the chance of death, severe infections, and hospitalization. Moderna CEO Roger Pfizer and Pfizer are both well-known vaccine makers. It could be weeks before the companies have a clear picture of whether or not their shots against omicron will work.
The early data are not encouraging. South African scientists stated Tuesday that omicron reduces antibody protection from BioNTech and Pfizer’s vaccine. according to a small preliminary study. However, those who have been vaccinated against the virus will be more protected from serious diseases, according to the study.
Pfizer‘s CEO Albert Bourla told The Wall Street Journal during an interview at the paper’s CEO Council Summit that he expects the number of confirmed omicron cases to surge from dozens to millions over the next few weeks, stating: “We will have a good understanding let’s say before the year-end as to what exactly it means for clinical manifestation.”
Bourla indicated that Pfizer has the ability to develop a vaccine for Omicron before March 2022. But it’s still not known if there is a demand for such a shot. According to Bourla, it may take several weeks before the new vaccines are able to provide adequate protection against this variant.
Brooke Knippenberg (6 years old) receives the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19), vaccine in Lansdale Pennsylvania on December 5, 2021.
Hannah Beier | Reuters
Health officials are faced with a daunting task when it comes to testing for the omicron variant. They want to assess its spread quickly.
WHO reported this variant and classified it as “of concern”. The WHO noted that the variant had a number of mutations. Some of these are alarming. This variant has a higher risk of reinfection than other VOCs, according to preliminary evidence.
Because of a genetic quirk, current Covid-PCR tests are still able to detect the variant. The WHO stated that several labs had indicated that one of three commonly used PCR tests failed to detect one target gene (called S Gene Dropout or S Gene Target Failure). This test could therefore be used as a marker, pending confirmation by sequencing.
This method detected the variant faster than any previous spikes in infection. Therefore, it is possible that this variant could have a growth advantage.
There are now reports of a new “offshoot”, however, that does not have the deletion that allows PCR to detect it. This could make it harder to track.
According to Financial Times, the offspring of Omicron was identified in seven different genome-sequenced cases from South Africa, Australia, and Canada. The characteristic is no longer present, so full genome sequencing is necessary to identify it. According to the Financial Times, the earliest form of Omicron has been identified as BA.1, with the offshoot being referred to as BA.2, according Tuesday’s FT report.
— CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed reporting to this story.