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Omicron: summary of available information

The COVID-19 epidemic in Panama is out of control . For twelve consecutive weeks we have presented a clear increase in the number of reported cases and the Omicron variant is the cause of almost 100% of the reported cases, since it is already dominant in the national territory, as it is in almost the entire world.

In this sense, it is convenient for us to be informed about everything that concerns this variant, so I share summaries of the updated information on the new Omicron variant, organized into two groups: the updates published by the WHO, and other international organizations, publications that are emerging about this new variant of COVID-19 and I add a document with the summary of the updated information at the end. I am sure that I may have left some important news without including, so I invite you to indicate it to me in the comments section, so that I can include them for the benefit of all.

To begin, let us recall that on  November 26, 2021 , the WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the recommendation of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). This decision was based on evidence presented to TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that can have an impact on how it behaves, for example how easily it spreads or the severity of the disease it causes. So let's go to the summary of the available information, and I invite you to stay informed about the situation of the  COVID-19 epidemic  in our country.

Today I am updating this publication about Omicron keeping for each chapter, the most recent articles and adding a PDF document with all the previous articles at the end. They can open it and view it on screen or download it and save it.

1. Omicron: WHO updates

All WHO publications on the COVID-19 pandemic are available here . Below are the updates available on Omicron.

Omicron: three new studies

Since the January 11 update, three new studies have provided additional evidence of reduced effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against infections and symptomatic diseases due to the Omicron variant. These studies report a decrease in VE of two doses of mRNA vaccines against infections and symptomatic diseases. due to the Omicron variant compared to the Delta variant within the first few months of receiving the second dose, with VE estimates declining more rapidly with increasing time from completion of the primary series. S

The WHO recommends giving priority to investigations of the BA.2 version of omicron

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended putting the emphasis on investigating the BA.2 version of the omicron variant, which is spreading rapidly in the world and whose impact it could have on the evolution of the disease is unknown. covid-19 pandemic.

Why are experts worried about Omicron?

Interview with Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO expert, in which she answers questions about Omicron: why do people keep ending up in hospitals and why do they keep killing people? And also, if this is transmissible, can we really protect ourselves?

Against Omicron, the immediate priority for the world is to accelerate access to primary vaccination.

Interim statement of the WHO Technical Advisory Group on the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine on COVID-19 vaccines in the context of the circulation of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. 

Statement by Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe

Omicron is gaining ground: protect, prevent, prepare Last week, Europe and Central Asia recorded an additional 27,000 deaths from COVID-19 and 2.6 million new cases. Infections, still predominantly of the Delta variant, are 40% higher now than during the same period last year. Since its identification 27 days ago, the Omicron variant of concern has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region. See full statement here .

Omicron may infect more than half of the population of Europe and Central Asia in the coming weeks

The omicron variant of  COVID-19 continues to spread at full speed in Europe and during the first week of January, more than seven million new cases of coronavirus were reported in this region, the regional office of the World Health Organization reported on Tuesday ( WHO) in the Old Continent. The regional director of the agency in Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, described the evolution of the variant as "a new tidal wave that extends from west to east", and which joins "the waves of the delta variant". 

2. PAHO: Coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19)

All WHO publications on the COVID-19 pandemic are available here . Below are the updates available on Omicron.

Omicron and other variants of concern identified in the Americas

The five variants of concern of the SARS-COV-2 virus have been identified in the Americas, including Omicron, which is now in several countries, according to an epidemiological update from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The variant that appears most frequently is the Delta, and since it was first reported in July 2020, 181 countries around the world – including 54 countries and territories in the Americas – have reported its detection, notes the Update of the PAHO.

3. Omicron: Summary of Relevant CDC Publications

Below I present very brief summaries of the publications that are emerging daily and I invite you to visit the CDC website

CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Period of Isolation and Quarantine for the General Population

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if they are asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of use of a mask when they are around other people. The change is motivated by science showing that most SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, typically in the 1-2 days before symptom onset and 2-3 days after.

4. Omicron: summary of other relevant publications

After Omicron, some scientists predict "a period of calm"

Just 2 months after it started, the Omicron wave is already receding in some countries. And while it has made large numbers of people sick, caused massive disruption and exhausted many health care workers, it is also leaving something unusual in its wake: a sense of optimism about the pandemic's trajectory. In countries where many people have been vaccinated or infected, scientists say, the worst may finally be over.

Omicron's new BA.2 lineage comes to the US after spreading across the UK, Denmark and India

Just as the wave of Omicron may have broken in the US, comes news of another version of the more transmissible variant, dubbed the BA.2. It has been nicknamed "Stealth Omicron" by some because it seems to evade identification better than its predecessor.

Beyond Omicron: what's next for the viral evolution of COVID

As the world moved toward a pandemic in early 2020, evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom looked to the future of SARS-CoV-2. Like many virus specialists at the time, he predicted that the new pathogen would not be eradicated. Rather, it would become endemic: the fifth coronavirus to become permanently established in humans, along with four "seasonal" coronaviruses that cause relatively mild colds and have been circulating among humans for decades or more.

Where is the race to stop COVID-19?

After more than two years of the pandemic,  several licensed vaccines  that are administered around the world and that offer protection against the coronavirus and its variants have been available for months. In addition to vaccines, drugs are also being developed to treat this infectious disease.

Will Omicron make most of us immune?

The variant is spreading widely, but it won't necessarily give us strong protection against new infections.

Fourth injection of COVID vaccine increases resistance to serious diseases for those over 60

A preliminary study released by Israel's Sheba medical center last Monday found that the fourth injection raises antibodies to even higher levels than the third, but "probably" not to the point that it could fully fend off the highly-anticipated Omicron variant. transmissible. 

What is our position with Omicron?

There has been a flood of new data in recent weeks on the impact of Omicron around the world, and specifically on the influence of vaccination (with or without boosters) on symptomatic infections, hospitalizations and deaths, including durability. It is actually remarkable how much and how quickly we are learning about Omicron and our ability to reduce its toll considering this virus strain was reported less than 2 months ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic may enter a new phase of stabilization

The head of the UN agency for health in Europe believes that the expansion of omicron gives hope of ending the emergency phase. The director general of the Organization warns that it is dangerous to assume that it will be the last variant. 

Omicron

Effectiveness of rapid tests in the detection of omicron

With the emergence of the omicron variant and its very high infection rate, rapid antigen tests have become a very important tool for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic during the current wave.

Omicron triggers the pandemic in Central America and the demand for tests grow

The omicron variant has triggered cases of covid-19 in Central America, where lines of people are seen seeking diagnosis in countries like El Salvador or Panama, although without the strong impact on hospitalizations and deaths that previous waves of the virus have had. pandemic.

The EU urges to prepare the fourth dose of the COVID vaccine in case it is necessary

European Union health ministers were told on Friday that they should prepare to deliver a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as data can show it is needed, as the bloc faces a increase in cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Booster shots provide the best protection against omicron, according to three large CDC studies .

All three studies recorded that unvaccinated people face the highest risks of getting sick from covid-19.

The worst of the Omicron wave could still be coming

What we can say is that the higher the crest of a wave, the longer and more confusing the path to the bottom. We need to prepare for the possibility that this wave could have an uncomfortably long, or at least crooked, tail. "I think the decline is unlikely to be as steep as the rise," said Saad Omer, an epidemiologist at Yale.

After Omicron, this pandemic will be different

The extraordinary spread of Omicron is likely to have important consequences for the future of the pandemic. By infecting large numbers of people quickly, it also builds immunity quickly. And that counts towards making Covid-19 a more manageable disease, as layers of immunity can provide protection against future waves and variants. That will be little consolation to people suffering from serious or worse illnesses this winter, but it does mean that after Omicron's wave, things will be different. 

Omicron is not the end of the pandemic.

The omicron variant has spread at record speed and the consequences have been significant for overwhelmed health systems. As older age groups become infected, the situation could get worse, but it's still much better than it would be if people hadn't already built up some immunity to COVID-19.

How to protect children from the Omicron variant

Referring to the United States, but applicable to our country, this article begins by pointing out that, “in the last three days, an average of 800 minors had to be interned each day. The most affected states are New York, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Due to the increase in hospitalizations, the country's health authorities stress that it is essential to take proper precautions

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