COVID-19: Some cases of Omicron show ‘mild’ symptoms and experts should know more about transmission ‘within days’ – WHO

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COVID-19: Some cases of Omicron show ‘mild’ symptoms and experts should know more about transmission ‘within days’ – WHO


Some cases of Omicron are said to have “mild” symptoms and experts should have more information on the transmission of the new COVID variant in a few days, a World Health Organization epidemiologist said.

This was faster than the “weeks” that the WHO predicted last week it would take to assess the available data on the disease.
variant after designating it as a variant of concern, its highest rating.

Speaking at a press conference, Maria van Kerkhove said one of the possible scenarios is that Omicron becomes more transmissible than Delta, but experts do not yet know its seriousness.

She said the WHO had seen reports of symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness. And she said there were suggestions for increased hospitalizations from Omicron, but stressed that it could be due to more cases.

Image:
Nurse prepares dose of COVID vaccine as new Omicron variant spreads in Dutywa, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

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The WHO said earlier this week that preliminary evidence raised the possibility that the variant has mutations that could help it evade an immune system response and increase its ability to spread from person to person. other.

It comes as a key group of UK scientists have warned Omicron could trigger a surge in COVID infections larger than previous waves in the country with a risk that it could overwhelm the NHS.

Experts from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), which advises the government, held a special meeting last week to review the new variant of COVID, scientifically known as B.1.1.529 , following its detection in South Africa.

According to a note from their meeting, which was observed by both a key Department of Health official and England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam, the group concluded the introduction of Omicron in the UK “could have very serious consequences”.

Nine more cases of Omicron have been detected in England, bringing the total to 22, according to the British Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The distribution of Omicron cases by local authority in England

Barnet : 2 Bexley : 1 Brentwood : 1 Buckinghamshire : 1 Camden : 2 Haringey : 1 Lancaster : 1 Lewisham : 2 Liverpool : 1 Newham : 1 North Norfolk : 1 Nottingham : 1 South Cambridgeshire : 1 Sutton : 1 Three Rivers : 1 Wandsworth : 1 Westminster : 3

People who test positive and their contacts are all isolated. Work is underway to identify links for travel to southern Africa.

Cases of Omicron have now been identified in the East Midlands, East England, London, South East and North West.

Another case was detected in Scotland, bringing the total to 10.

Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, said there was no evidence yet that giving booster vaccines to the entire population, including healthy people. , would provide better protection against disease.

Boris Johnson is committed to offer a COVID booster to everyone over 18 in the UK by the end of January.

But, responding to a question from Tom Clarke of Sky, Dr Ryan said: “At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that strengthening the entire population is necessarily going to provide better protection for people. otherwise healthy people against hospitalization or death.

“The real risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death lies in those particularly at risk and vulnerable who require protection against all variants of COVID-19. “

And his WHO colleague, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, said: “Our goal should be to protect those who have not received their first round of immunization. “

The NERVTAG meeting, held by conference call Thursday afternoon, came the day after South African authorities first reported the discovery of the Omicron variant.

The British government on Friday added six southern African countries, including South Africa, to its travel red list.

Four more countries were added over the weekend.

The high number of mutations on the peak protein used by Omicron to infect human cells could mean that existing vaccines need to be changed.

Two of the three biggest vaccine makers have tried to allay fears about the new strain.

The University of Oxford, which originated the AstraZeneca vaccine, and Pfizer-BioNtech predicted that existing vaccines would continue to prevent serious illness.

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