On 26 November 2021, on the advice of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), WHO designated variant B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern. , named Omicron. This decision is based on evidence presented to TAG-VE that Omicron has a number of mutations that can affect how it works, such as how easily it spreads or how severe the disease it gets. cause. Below is a summary of what is known so far.
Current data on Omicron
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand the many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.
Transmissibility: It remains unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., easily spread from person to person) than other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has increased in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiological studies are underway to find out if it is due to Omicrons or not. other factors or not.
Severity of the disease: It remains unclear whether Omicron infection causes more severe illness than infecting other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggest an increasing rate of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to the growing total number of people infected, not Omicron infection. There is currently no information to suggest that Omicron-associated symptoms differ from those in other variants. The initial reported infections were among college students – younger people tend to have a milder illness – but understanding the severity of the Omicron variant will take days to weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is spreading worldwide, can cause severe illness or death, especially for the most vulnerable, and therefore Prevention is always key.
Effect of previous infection with SARS-CoV-2
Preliminary evidence suggests that there may be an increased risk of re-infection with Omicron (i.e. people who have had COVID-19 may be reinfected with Omicron more easily), compared with other variants of concern, but information is still limited. More information on this will be available in the coming days and weeks.
Vaccine efficacy: WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines are still important in reducing severe illness and death, including against the circulating variant Delta. Existing vaccines are still effective against severe illness and death.
The effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests can still detect infections, including Omicron, as we have seen with other variants. Studies are underway to determine if Omicron has any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.
Efficacy of current treatments: Corticosteroids and IL6 receptor blockers will remain effective for the management of patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be evaluated to see if they still work with changes to viral components in the Omicron variant.
Research is underway
At the present time, WHO is working with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies that are currently ongoing or short-term include assessment of infectivity, severity of infection (including symptoms), effectiveness of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatment methods.
WHO encourages countries to contribute, collect and share hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform for rapid characterization of clinical characteristics and patient outcomes.
More information will appear in the coming days and weeks. WHO’s TAG-VE will continue to monitor and evaluate the data as it is presented and evaluate how mutations in Omicron change the virus’s mechanism of action.
Recommended actions for countries
Since Omicron has been designated a Variant of CARE, there are a number of actions WHO recommends countries take, including increased surveillance and case sequencing; share genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; report initial cases or clusters to WHO; Undertake field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand whether Omicrons have a different mode of transmission or mechanism of disease, or impact the effectiveness of vaccines, treatments, diagnostics or social and public health measures. More details are in the announcement from November 26.
Countries should continue to take effective public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. Countries should strengthen their public health and health capacity to manage the increase in cases. WHO is providing countries with support and guidance both in terms of preparedness and response.
In addition, it is of the utmost importance that inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including healthcare workers and elderly, receiving the first dose and the second dose, along with equitable access to treatment and diagnosis.
The most effective steps each person can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others; wear a mask that fits the face; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; always wash your hands thoroughly; cough or sneeze into your bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
WHO will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available, including at the following TAG-VE meetings. In addition, information will be available on WHO digital and social media platforms.
Source: Update on Omicron
Translated by: thangngan2509
Editing: Gia Minh
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