BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for January, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated variant B.1.1.52,  a variant of concern on November 26, 2021. The virus was named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).  Factors that determine whether a variant is medically important include, the method or ease  of spread,  number of mutations, and severity of the disease caused. Scientists report that the Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and infected persons can spread the virus to others, irrespective of their vaccination status or level of symptoms.

All COVID-19 variants, including Omicron, can be detected through current laboratory tests-  

nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. These tests only indicate the presence of an infection but does not specify the type of variant one is infected with. Additional and more complex tests are needed to determine which variant of concern is responsible for an infection. There are also self tests which are easy to do at home and produce rapid results. Evidence from studies  suggest that there is an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron compared to the other variants of concern. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a widely used tests which  is effective in detecting COVID-19  infection, including infection with Omicron.

To protect against severe forms of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to Omicron  infection, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends up to date vaccination.  CDC also recommends that people aged 16 years and above get a booster shot about 6 months after the completion of their primary vaccination series. Vaccines have been the best public health approach and solution that protect people from COVID-19. Vaccines function by  preventing or delaying viral transmission and potentially reducing the likelihood of the emergence of new variants. As with the previous variants, vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death from Omicron and are still the most effective approach against life threatening complications. CDC’s recommendation is based on the fact that vaccines have remained effective for the  previous variants, which are similar to Omicron in genetic make-up. Although the virus-specific genetic make-up of Omicron makes it non-responsive to some of the current treatments used for the previous variants, Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers continue to be  effective in the management managing patients with severe COVID-19.

It is important to note that all variants of COVID-19 are capable of causing severe disease or death, particularly for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always the best option.

In addition to vaccines and boosters, masks- especially surgical masks, continue to provide a physical barrier against all variants. The wearing of masks in public spaces is a necessary protective strategy, irrespective of one’s vaccination status. Other effective ways to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus are: physical distance, avoiding poorly ventilated or crowded spaces, frequent hand washing and covering the mouth properly when coughing or sneezing. 

It has been a long and rough ride with the CoVID-19 pandemic spanning over two years. As of January 2022, there have been over 364,191,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, including 5,631,457 deaths. A total of 9,854,237,363 vaccine doses have been administered.