WHO says South African strain may have higher risk of reinfection

Yesterday the new South African variant of the coronavirus was released worldwide, the fifth since the pandemic began to spread in early 2020. Under the Greek baptism of Omicron, what is known about it is that it has a dozen mutations whose reach in terms of dissemination and resistance to existing vaccines is yet to be determined.

The first investigations suggest that it would be much more contagious. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to others that are also of concern,” WHO experts said yesterday. When this organism speaks of a strain of concern, it means that the mutations cause an increase in transmissibility or a detrimental change in epidemiology.

Faced with the alarm, half of Europe yesterday closed its borders to the African country. First thing in the morning, the president of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, urged to suspend the flights and, after that call, the Twenty-seven put on the emergency brake. In Spain, however, the decision will be made next Tuesday in the Council of Ministers. “In line with the call made by the president of the European Commission, the Ministry of Health will propose in the next Council of Ministers an agreement for the restriction of flights from South Africa and Botswana,” sources from the Ministry of Health explained yesterday. in front Carolina Darias.

Additionally, and until next Tuesday arrives, the department adopted a resolution of the General Directorate of Public Health to require passengers who come from countries at risk, in addition to vaccination, an antigen test or PCR. In addition, the ministry assures this medium that until yesterday “the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network has not sequenced any lineage of the type B.1.1.529 (the new South African strain)”.

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The World Health Organization determined this week that currently approved vaccines have been losing efficacy to variants. In the case of the Delta, “there are data that suggest that before the arrival of the variant, the vaccines reduced the transmission of the virus by 60% but, with its appearance, they fell to 40%,” said the international organization.

Von der Leyen said yesterday that the contract extension agreements signed with Pfizer and Moderna oblige the latter to adapt their vaccines to the variants, although it was not clear how long it might take them to adapt the sera to the new strains. This is so because it must first be verified that the current versions are still valid.

The alarm, therefore, seems justified. The mutations found in this variant multiply those found in Delta, the Indian model that is the protagonist of the fifth wave in summer. However, now there is much to study. “What is known is that this variant has a large number of mutations and the concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s lead epidemiologist. “It will take a few weeks to understand what impact this variant has. There is a lot of work underway. It is a variant that is being monitored,” added the international expert.

“Get vaccinated when you can, make sure you get the full dose, and take steps to reduce your exposure and prevent you from passing the virus on to someone else.”

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Van Kerkhove also called on the population to take responsibility against the virus. “Everyone needs to understand that the more this virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change, the more mutations we will see. Each has a role to play in reducing transmission as well as protecting against severe disease and death. So get vaccinated when you can, make sure you get the full dose, and take steps to reduce your exposure and prevent you from passing the virus on to someone else,” he said.

But the virus will continue to circulate as long as vaccination is not encouraged in poor countries, which are a long way from Europe. This variant comes from South Africa, where the percentage of complete patterns is 23.5%. The former came from India, where the percentage is 30.3%.

The first case in Europe occurs in Belgium

Not even 24 hours passed between South Africa’s announcement of a new variant and the first case in Europe. A woman with symptoms of coronavirus after a trip to Egypt with a stopover in Turkey is the first confirmed case in Belgium of a patient infected with the new variant. The diagnosis was confirmed by the UZ Leuven University Hospital (Leuven) after examining a young adult who was not vaccinated and who began to develop symptoms eleven days after making the trip to Egypt. The patient has a high viral load but we will have to wait a few days to see how she evolves.

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