WHO says omicron Covid variant has unfold to 38 international locations

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The World Well being Group on Friday mentioned the omicron Covid-19 variant has been detected in 38 international locations, up from 23 two days in the past, with early knowledge suggesting the pressure is extra contagious than delta.

“We do see an growing development price, we see growing numbers of omicron being detected,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead mentioned throughout a Q&A livestreamed on the group’s social media channels Friday. “However we’ve got studies of omicron in 38 international locations in all six WHO areas.”

“There’s a suggestion that there’s elevated transmissibility, what we have to perceive is that if it is kind of transmissible in comparison with delta,” Van Kerkhove mentioned, noting that the delta variant continues to be dominant throughout the globe.

Van Kerkhove mentioned it is nonetheless too early to know the severity of illness brought on by omicron. Early studies of gentle signs in a few of the first instances the place it was recognized had been primarily based on a cluster of college college students who are usually youthful and expertise extra gentle signs than older adults, she mentioned.

“There was preliminary studies that it tended to be extra gentle, however it’s actually too quickly,” Van Kerkhove mentioned. “Everyone who’s contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 no matter what variant will all the time begin out with a gentle illness. And so possibly it is going to cease there with gentle, some persons are asymptomatic in fact, however it might cease with gentle illness or it might take a while.”

Van Kerkove mentioned there are growing hospitalizations in South Africa, however public well being officers have not seen an elevated threat of loss of life but, however they’re ready on extra knowledge.

Dr. Mike Ryan, govt director of the WHO’s well being emergency program, mentioned public well being officers initially noticed gentle instances with the alpha and delta variants as effectively. It may take two weeks to see elevated mortality related to omicron if the variant does, the truth is, trigger extra extreme illness.

“It takes time sadly,” Ryan mentioned. “We noticed that as effectively in earlier waves of this pandemic. When the incidence price goes up, it takes per week or two for that to lead to hospital admissions and deaths.”

Van Kerkhove cautioned there is a reporting bias for the time being which can obscure how virulent the variant actually is. Lots of the individuals around the globe who’ve examined constructive for omicron had been wholesome vacationers, which may clarify why the signs reported to date are gentle.

“For those who’re touring, you are not sick otherwise you should not be touring in the event you’re sick,” Van Kerkhove mentioned. “So there is a bias by way of what’s being detected for the time being, however that can change over time.”

The primary particular person within the U.S. who examined constructive for omicron was a completely vaccinated traveler between 18 and 49 years of age getting back from South Africa to the San Francisco space.

Van Kerkhove known as on nations around the globe to extend genetic sequencing of Covid-19 instances to detect new variants and share the outcomes publicly to higher perceive the evolution of the virus.

“Now could be the time to beef up the techniques,” she mentioned. “You’ve got heard us say that for fairly a while now, however it’s not too late to do that — techniques must be strengthened.”

Van Kerkhove famous that South Africa was the primary nation to report omicron to the WHO, however the timeline may change as extra international locations sequencie a backlog of Covid instances from November.

“So a few of the earliest instances of this explicit variant might very effectively not be in South Africa,” she mentioned.

Van Kerkhove and Ryan mentioned the present vaccines stay the best measure to sluggish transmission of the virus. Ryan mentioned there is a “clear relationship” between vaccine inequity and the event of variants around the globe. The WHO has repeatedly criticized rich nations for not doing sufficient to get vaccines to individuals in poorer international locations around the globe.

Pfizer and Moderna have mentioned it is going to take about two weeks to know the way omicron impacts the present vaccines as researchers collect knowledge.

“Proper now there is no such thing as a want to alter the vaccines we’re at the moment utilizing,” Ryan mentioned. “There is no such thing as a proof to help that. There is no such thing as a proof there to alter,  however there’s a variety of work occurring to take a look at if we had been to alter, how would possibly we alter these vaccines and that work must be carried out upfront.”

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