New Omicron variant more transmissible

Monica Sharik, a vaccinator at Dusten Kura Gwari, Chanchagi LGA WHO Image

UN News Officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) say  a new Omicron variant is better able to pass from person to person than previous versions of the virus. And so researchers have shifted their attention to Omicron’s offspring.

“Are we ready to take the hit of another wave of a new variant that might emerge? I don’t think so,” Mike Ryan, the WHO emergencies chief, said of China’s latest outbreak at the agency’s last scheduled news conference of the year on Dec. 21.

Researchers look for mutations in the genetic sequence of the virus that might offer a variant a growth advantage over previous versions, cause more severe illness or help it to get around our immune defenses.

“Omicron, the latest variant of concern, is the most transmissible variant we have seen so far, including all the subvariants that are in circulation, more than 500 of them. So we will continue to see surges of infection around the world,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19.

It’s critical to continue to monitor known variants, as well as being able to detect new ones, so that strategies can be adjusted if needed, she said.

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