Scientists have raised the alarm about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, first identified in Botswana, which has an “extremely high number” of mutations that may drive new waves of infection. It is dangerous, but how do you know?
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday named the B.1.1.529 variant of the novel coronavirus Omicron.’
While scientists are still trying to determine the impact of this variant on the course of the Covid-19 pandemic’s trajectory, there are certain things that we already know.
It is where did it all come from.
Botswana was the place where B.1.1.529 was first identified. Samples were taken November 11th. The first cases of B.1.1.529 were identified in Botswana from samples taken on November 11.
Is it still there?
It quickly spread to southern Africa, where it was later discovered in Israel and Hong Kong.
Belgium reported Friday the first European case. A traveler from Egypt was infected with the virus. Omicron infections were quickly reported in several other EU countries including Germany and Italy.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that two of the cases had been linked to travel from south Africa. Officials in the Netherlands confirmed that 61 Covid-positive patients had been on two flights departing from South Africa. 13 of them were also infected by Omicron.
On Sunday, two Canadian cases were confirmed to have been infected by the strain.
It can be stopped.
Hopefully. Britain quickly responded to this rapidly-emerging virus by banning all flights from South Africa and Namibia. Soon after, the EU followed suit and suspended all South African flights and many neighboring countries. Meanwhile, Australia and the US stopped most southern Africa flights. Israel, Japan, Morocco and other countries have closed their borders to foreigners.
German citizens and persons with residency rights are required to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in South Africa from Germany, even though they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Jens Spahn, the Health Minister, said that this was mandatory.
Is it really that dangerous?
Omicron was designated by the WHO as a variant of serious concern Friday. The WHO said that the Omicron strain poses a threat to public health. “very high”It is a risk worldwide and was warned about its potential to spread and cause more damage than previously thought.
The WHO also noted that the WHO still had not yet identified a cure. “substantial uncertainty” about many of Omicron’s traits, including its transmissibility and the severity of the disease it causes.
Angelique Coetzee from South Africa, who was the first to detect the variant, stated that patients so far have only experienced mild symptoms like fatigue, headaches and nausea. They also did not experience the Covid-19 symptoms of a cough or loss of sense of smell.
Scientists are worried about what?
Omicron is a carrier of 43 spike protein mutations compared with the 18 found in the Delta strain. This was revealed by research at Rome’s Bambino Gesu Hospital. The virus’s spike-like protrusion from the surface plays an important part in the way the disease infects the host.
— Johnny Socratous (@johnnysocratous) November 29, 2021
Vaccines designed to fight the disease are based on the spike protein profile.
Is it possible to avoid vaccines?
According to the WHO, based on existing data, they are “reasonable to assume”The current vaccines are effective. “some protection”Resistance to severe illness or death
But scientists need time to test vaccines for Omicron. “Probably in a few weeks, we’ll have a better sense of how much this variant is spreading, and how necessary it might be to push forward with a variant vaccine,”According to the New York Times, Dr. Jesse Bloom is an evolutionary biologist from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
What is the secret to our success?
Viruses mutate “often and at random,”The UK Health Security Agency’s Covid-19 incident director, Dr. Meera Chand noted this. Chand explained to The Guardian that it wasn’t unusual for new cases to emerge in small numbers.
Professor Stuart Ray, the vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics at the US’ Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that “geographic separation tends to result in genetically distinct variants.”
While news of the variant has caused a global panic, sending stock markets plunging, we still don’t know how transmissible this strain is or whether it will be able to evade vaccine-induced immunity.
WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, offered the assurance that “any variants showing evidence of spread are rapidly assessed.”She said that it might take several weeks before you can get a true understanding of the effects of this new strain.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission spoke in a similar tonality. She said that scientists and vaccine-makers will likely have an a. “full picture”In two to three months.
BioNTech produced a vaccine along with Pfizer. Moderna, Sinovac and Sputnik V all announced they would quickly make updated vaccines for Omicron.
The Guardian spoke with Professor Andrew Pollard of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who created a vaccine in collaboration with AstraZeneca. “extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen”In the UK.