How to fight Covid-19 while scientists wait for answers on Omicron (Opinion) – .

How to fight Covid-19 while scientists wait for answers on Omicron (Opinion) – .

Many world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, reacted quickly to the news by announcing a series of travel restrictions on African countries, although the variant has already been detected in places like Australia, Hong Kong and Israel. While Omicron has yet to be found in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if he already had made his entrance.

At best, travel restrictions can help slow the spread of the variant and save us time. At worst, they can hamper global communication, transparency and data sharing while discouraging countries from monitoring new variants. But while we wait to learn more about this viral variant, there are resources available to protect us in the event Omicron spreads in the United States. We all need to do our part, which includes getting vaccinated and testing for Covid-19 when recommended while the medical community studies the variant and assesses whether our vaccines will hold up.

Across there are a lot of things we don’t yet know about Omicron, here are three things we do know:

The Omicron variant was first detected in a sample collected on November 9 and reported to WHO on November 24. All Covid-19 samples collected in South Africa’s Gauteng province between November 12 and 20 were determined to be the Omicron variant, suggesting that it is becoming the dominant strain in that region. The variant has been detected in a number of other countries and continents, but due to the wide variation in viral sequencing surveillance efforts, undetected Omicron outbreaks may already exist in other locations.

Omicron has a lot of mutations

The virus’s genome contains around 50 mutations, of which around 30 are found in the spike protein – the structure that the virus uses to enter the cells it attacks. (This spike protein is also the basis of most mRNA vaccines, which provide instructions to our immune system to recognize and attack this part of the virus.)

The World Health Organization has reported that “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection with this variant, compared to others (variants of concern).” Preparing for the worst, vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech have already announced that they could make a new vaccine specific to Omicron in 100 days if needed, subject to regulatory approval.

Severity and contagiousness are currently not well understood

Mutations can affect both the severity (virulence) and infectivity (transmissibility) of a virus, making them more or less dangerous to the public. Early observations in South Africa suggest that Omicron may spread more easily than Delta, although these early estimates are notoriously unreliable.

South African Dr Angelique Coetzee reported that she has so far observed about two dozen Omicron patients, mostly young men, about half of whom were unvaccinated, with relatively milder symptoms such as intense fatigue. While potentially encouraging, this is a small sample of all cases, and South Africa has a much younger population than the United States and many other countries, providing fewer opportunities to assess. the effects of Omicron on older, high-risk people.

Overall, there hasn’t been enough time to understand Omicron’s lethality. Understanding Omicron’s behavior better will require months of additional subject observations.

There are now systems at the national and international levels that allow the identification and characterization of new variants. In the United States, the SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG), jointly established by a number of U.S. health and defense authorities, focuses on monitoring emerging variants and their potential impact on countermeasures. reviews of SARS-CoV-2, including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

Likewise, the World Health Organization is also helping to track variants of SARS-CoV-2 internationally and is working with multiple partners, national institutions and expert networks to monitor and assess variants that may present a risk. increased risk to global public health.

But for now, the limited quantity we know of Omicron leaves a lot of room for questions. Will he die like Mu or take over like Delta?

While waiting for the answers, we must remain vigilant. For all of us, that means getting the vaccine and, if eligible, getting the booster dose, wearing a mask, and being mindful of the activities we do. If we do get sick or are exposed to someone who is sick, getting tested and quarantined if we test positive is critical.

Vaccinating now is now more important than ever. Even if Omicron continues to spread, Delta will be the dominant strain of the virus that causes Covid-19 as winter approaches, according to Fauci. Vaccination protects against Delta and may also protect against Omicron.

At the level of public health, we must continue to employ all strategies to contain the virus: vaccination, testing, sequencing, surveillance, contact tracing and offering support services to those who need to quarantine or isolate . Medically, we must continue to develop new generations of vaccines that can be easily scaled up to respond to any specific threat variant.

The Omicron variant is another reminder of the risk we all face when immunization levels are low around the world. Allowing the virus to spread unchecked gives it more opportunities to mutate without the protective coverage offered by vaccines at the community level. Late vaccination rates everywhere are a threat everywhere.

We cannot afford to face another enemy similar to Delta. The toll is too heavy – emotionally, physically, economically and financially.


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