Not clear whether `Omicron' is more transmissible or causes severe disease: WHO

However, WHO said preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron, but the information is limited.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  29 Nov 2021 4:44 AM GMT
Not clear whether `Omicron is more transmissible or causes severe disease: WHO

Geneva: Amid concerns, World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday said it is not yet clear whether `Omicron' is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared to other variants including Delta.

WHO said it's not yet clear whether Omicron easily spreads compared to other variants, even though the number of people testing positive has risen in South Africa where this variant was involved.

It's also not yet clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease, but preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa. It may be due to an increase in the overall number of people getting infected.

WHO confirmed that there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from other variants as understanding the level of severity of the variant will take days to several weeks.

All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is currently dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.

However, WHO said preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron, but the information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.

It added that current RT-PCR tests continue to detect Omicron, while further studies are still going on to understand how the Omicron variant will impact available vaccines and treatments to COVID-19.

WHO classified on Friday the latest variant B.1.1.529 of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, now with the name Omicron as a "Variant of Concern" (VOC).

According to WHO's definition, a VOC, with a degree of global public health significance, demonstrates one or more mutational changes, such as an increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, and decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

WHO has since called on countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing on circulating SARSCoV-2 variants, submit complete genome sequences and metadata to a publicly available database, and report initial VOC cases or clusters to WHO.

It has also recommended field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, the effectiveness of public health and social measures, and antibody neutralization.

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