Virus Experts Issue New Warning About Omicron
While COVID hasn't been dominating headlines lately due to other breaking news stories taking place, experts warn the virus is rearing up again and another surge is likely. Although U.S. cases have been on the decline, COVID is surging in Europe and Asia and experts predict it's just a matter of time before another wave hits. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Erica Susky, an Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) in hospital epidemiology who shares her insight in Omicron and what people should know about other variants. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What the COVID-19 Wave in China and Europe Indicates about the Virus
According to Susky, "The recent wave of SARS-CoV-2 in China is due to a sub-variant of the Omicron Variant of Concern (VOC) called BA.2. Since the Omicron VOC emerged in November of 2021, four sub-variants of Omicron have been found. From epidemiological studies showing the proportion of BA.2 increasing rapidly compared to other Omicron sub-variants, there is a concern that this sub-variant may spread more easily than prior VOCs. Public health agencies are monitoring the situation and the BA.2 numbers in their respective countries as this will give further information to inform necessary public health measures around the world in the coming months."
What Should People Know About Deltacron?
Susky says, "Deltacron" is a recombinant virus that likely originated from two prior VOCs, the Omicron and Delta as it shares RNA sequence similarities from both VOCs. This probably emerged in places where the two VOCs were circulating concomitantly. A human host may have been infected with an Omicron and a Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2 at the same time to allow for recombination to occur. It is not something to be necessarily alarmed about, it is just a part of viral evolution. There is ongoing surveillance and epidemiology of new SARS-CoV-2 variants to determine how much of a concern certain emerging variants will be. Evolution of the virus may not necessarily be a concern; what concerns people is an increase in virulence (the severity of infection) and immune escape."
Difference Between Deltacron and Stealth Omicron
Susky explains, "Stealth Omicron is referring to the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, whereas the newer SARS-CoV-2 strain referred to as a "Deltacron" is a combination of viruses from two lineages (Omicron and Delta). Overall, "Deltacron" seems to combine the genetic backbone of Delta with a large part of the spike protein from Omicron (the spike protein being where SARS-CoV-2 attaches itself to a human cell). The number of "Deltacron" cases is very small and not a lot is known about the virus as to whether it should be a VOC. Currently, with a small number of "Deltacron" cases but a rising number of BA.2, the latter virus is more likely to affect people in the near future. However, emerging evidence suggests that BA.2 is not more severe than prior Omicron circulating viruses."
How Likely is there to be Another Surge?
Susky reminds us, "Though public health restrictions are lifting in many places, the pandemic is still not over. New forms of SARS-CoV-2 are emerging as seen with the sub-variants of Omicron. New mutations of SARS-CoV-2 are expected, it is a fact of life in viral evolution. With both natural infection and immunization showing fading immunity to SARS-CoV-2 combined with the easing of public health measures there is bound to be an increase in COVID-19 cases or a surge. What is important is how steep the surge will be, if the disease will be more or less severe than in prior waves, and if local public health measures will assist in keeping healthcare systems in a state that can manage future surges."
What Protective Measures Should People Take Right Now to Try to Avoid COVID?
"The public health measures used throughout the pandemic were used," says Susky. "The key ones being vaccination, and the wearing of masks indoors. Other measures can be taken based on peoples' tolerance for risk and the level of transmission in their area. Some examples are to gather in small groups, gather outdoors instead of indoors whenever possible, and to remain at home and not go out when sick."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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