WHO releases initial information on Omicron . mutation

The World Health Organization (WHO) on November 28 announced new information about the Omicron mutation, after classifying it as a worrying group.

WHO’s recommendations are based on comments from the Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution. Accordingly, Omicron has a number of mutations that affect characteristics, such as the spread and severity of the disease.

Scientists in South Africa and around the world are working to better understand aspects of Omicron and continue to share new findings.

About the possibility of transmission, WHO is still unclear whether Omicron is more contagious than other strains, like Delta, or not. The number of people testing positive for nCoV in South Africa has increased since the mutation emerged. Epidemiologists are learning more whether Omicron is the direct cause, or is another factor.

About the severity of the disease, WHO is also not clear whether Omicron causes more severe symptoms. According to preliminary data, the daily hospitalization rate in South Africa has increased, but this may be due to the overall increase in infections, not Omicron. There is currently no information showing that the symptoms of the new strain are different from the previous one. Initial reported infections are among young people, university students, and tend to be milder. But it took days to weeks for the seriousness of the mutation to become apparent.

All nCoV strains, including the Delta that are dominant globally, can cause severe illness or death, especially for the most vulnerable. Therefore, WHO believes that preventing infection from the beginning is always the key to repel the disease.

Preliminary evidence from WHO suggests The risk of re-infection with Omicron may be increased compared with other worrisome strains. The organization will release more information on this in the coming weeks.

WHO is working closely with experts to understand the potential impact of the variant with current responses, including vaccines. The organization recognizes that vaccination is still an important factor in reducing the risk of serious illness and death, against circulating strains. Existing vaccines are still effective in preventing serious illness and death.

People in Beijing wear masks to prevent Covid-19 infection, November 28. Photo: AP

The effectiveness of current tests: The PCR tests in use are still able to detect the Omicron variant, as with other strains. Experts are working to determine whether rapid tests, antigen tests are affected.

Effectiveness of current treatments: Corticosteroids and IL6 receptor blockers are still effective in treating severe Covid-19 patients. Other methods need further evaluation, as Omicron has more mutations than previous strains of the virus.

Recommendations for individuals: WHO recommends that each individual keep a safe distance from people around, wear a mask properly, open windows in closed spaces to reduce infection, regularly disinfect hands, cough or sneeze into the elbow. hands to avoid droplets, vaccinate when eligible.

Recommendations for the government: Because Omicron has been designated as a variant of concern, WHO recommends that countries strengthen surveillance, sequence the viral genes of positive cases, share that sequence on a public basis such as GISAID, report initial translation cluster for the organization.

WHO recommends maintaining public health measures, reducing the overall rate of Covid-19 transmission, using a risk analysis and science-based approach.

The organization also emphasized that countries should prepare conditions and public health capacity to be proactive in the scenario where the number of cases will skyrocket in the near future.

In addition, it is very important that inequalities in access to Covid-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups, including healthcare workers and the elderly, are fully vaccinated. submit. Access to treatment and diagnosis should also be equitable.

Currently, WHO is collaborating with many researchers around the world to learn about Omicron. The organization encourages countries to collect and share patient data through the Covid-19 Clinical Data Platform, which quickly describes a person’s symptoms. Many important information such as transmissibility, severity of the disease, symptoms, vaccine effectiveness … are expected to be answered in the next few weeks.

Thuc Linh (According to WHO)


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