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WHO reports omicron Covid variant has spread to 38 countries

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The World Health Organization said Friday that the omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected in 38 countries, up from 23 two days earlier, with preliminary data suggesting the strain is more infectious than delta.

“We are really seeing growing growth, we are seeing the number of detectable omicrons on the rise,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for Covid-19, during a live Q&A on the group’s social media channels on Friday. “But we have reports of omicron in 38 countries across all six WHO regions.”

“There is speculation that there is increased permeability and we need to understand if it is more or less transferable compared to the delta,” said Van Kerkhove, noting that the delta variant still dominates the world.

Van Kerkhove said it was too early to understand the severity of the omicron disease. Early reports of mild symptoms in some of the first cases they were discovered were based on a group of university students, who tend to be younger and experience milder symptoms than older adults, she said.

“Initially, there were reports that it tended to be softer, but in reality it is too early,” Van Kerkhove said. “Anyone who is infected with SARS-CoV-2, no matter which variant, will always start out with a mild illness. And so, perhaps, it will stop at a mild one, in some people, of course, it is asymptomatic, but it can end up with a mild illness or it. may take a while. “

Van Kerkow said hospital admissions are on the rise in South Africa, but health officials have yet to see an increased risk of death but are awaiting more data.

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said health officials initially saw mild cases with alpha and delta variants. It may take two weeks to see the increased mortality associated with the omicron if the variant is indeed causing more severe illness.

“Unfortunately, it takes time,” Ryan said. “We’ve seen this in previous waves of this pandemic as well. When the incidence rate rises, it takes a week or two for it to lead to hospitalization and death. “

Van Kerkhove warned that there is currently a systematic error in messages that could hide how dangerous this option really is. Many of the people around the world who tested positive for omicron were healthy travelers, which may explain why the symptoms so far reported are mild.

“If you are traveling, you are not sick or you should not travel if you are sick,” Van Kerkhove said. “So there is a bias about what is being discovered in the present moment, but that will change over time.”


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