COVID reinfection warning bells ahead of new year bells

Caution, cauition: Maria Van Kerkhove

COVID reinfection warning bells ahead of new year bells

Omicron, new virus variant of concern

By B N KUMAR

Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern , the WHO said

MUMBAI, Nov 27 (The CONNECT) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for “enhance surveillance” in view of the possibility of a new variant of concern (VOC) of SARS-CoV-2 called Omicron causing reinfections.

The organisation reminded people at large to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

This development is bound to make authorities have a relook at measures to ease COVID restrictions and new year celebrations.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.

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For reference, WHO has working definitions for SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Interest (VOI) and Variant of Concern (VOC).

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Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, has said.

The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa, the global health body said and called for increasing the sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants

The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 held a meeting yesterday to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529 following which the WHO alarm was sounded.

Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

The WHO asked member countries to submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID, and report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism. 

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