SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the coronavirus to be designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization: more and more countries are reporting cases, and it has an unusual combination of mutations that may enable it to spread faster. “B.1.1.529” by the WHO, has been described as having an “extremely high” number of mutations, according to South African scientists who first detected the Beta variant.The strain has been linked to a growing number of coronavirus cases around the world since it was first detected in South Africa and Botswana earlier this month.The WHO classified the new Omicron strain as a “variant of concern” on Friday.It is as yet unclear how effective vaccines will be against it, how transmissible it is and how severe an infection it can cause.
South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus that they say is behind a recent spike in Covid-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days.From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, South Africa saw the number of new daily cases rocket to more than 3,200 Saturday, most in Gauteng.Struggling to explain the sudden rise in cases, scientists studied virus samples and discovered the new variant. Now, as many as 90% of the new cases in Gauteng are caused by it, according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.
The leading infectious disease expert for the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, added that public health experts are trying to find answers to questions such as whether the omicron variant causes more severe illness and whether it can evade protection from vaccines or treatments.It also has a bunch of mutations that would suggest it could evade the protection, for example, of monoclonal antibodies and perhaps even convalescent plasma for people who have been infected and recovered, and possibly vaccine. These are all maybes, but the suggestion is enough,Fauci said.
Symptoms of Omicron ?
The patient didn’t have a sore throat, she said, but more of a “scratchy throat” but no cough or loss of taste or smell — symptoms that have been associated with previous strains of the coronavirus.Coetzee said she tested the male patient for COVID, and he was positive, as was his family, and then said she saw more patients that day presenting with the same kinds of symptoms that differed from the delta variant.Other patients she had seen so far with the omicron variant had also experienced what she described as “extremely mild” symptoms, and she added that her colleagues had noted similar cases.
Any vaccines work against Omicron?
Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer and BioNTech all are still investigating the impact Omicron may have on the effectiveness of their vaccines. The companies say they are already preparing to potentially change their vaccines to target Omicron.If Omicron is determined to be a “vaccine-escape variant,” Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech say they could produce “a tailor-made vaccine” in around 100 days, subject to regulatory approval. Moderna says its Omicron-specific booster could be advanced to testing within three months, in addition to other booster candidates they are already developing.