“On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution. This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known.
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.
Transmissibility: It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g. more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta….
Severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalisation in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants… All variants of Covid-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.
Effectiveness of prior infection: Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of re-infection with Omicron (i.e. people who have previously had Covid-19 could become re-infected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited.
Effectiveness of vaccines: WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Current vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta.
Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron…
Studies underway: At the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments. WHO encourages countries to contribute the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform to rapidly describe clinical characteristics and patient outcomes. More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks.
Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce Covid-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. They should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases. WHO is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response.
In addition, it is vitally important that inequities in access to Covid-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics.
And don’t forget to wear a mask!!!!
SOURCE: WHO. Update on Omicron, 26 November 2021