Nearly two and a half years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the most contagious and transmissible version has arrived. repeated waves of COVID-19 With vaccines helping to reduce the number of victims, millions died.
Now the virus is spreading again – evolving, developing immunity, and increasing cases and hospitalizations. the latest version of your resize, BA.5, This is a clear sign that the pandemic is not over.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron’s latest branch, along with the closely related variant, BA.4, is driving a global increase in cases – 30% over the past fortnight.
In Europe, omicron subvariant cases are increasing by about 25%, although Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said the number could be higher given the “decline in testing”. BA.5 is on March in China, raising concerns that major cities there may soon impose strict lockdown measures that have recently been lifted.
And the same type has become the dominant strain in the United States, where it accounted for 65% of new infections last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We have seen that this virus evolves rapidly. We are planning and preparing for this moment. And the message I want to convey to the American people is this: BA.5 is something that we are monitoring closely, and most importantly we know how to manage it,” said Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 response coordinator said, at a press conference on Tuesday.
On the same day, the WHO’s Emergency Committee said that Covid-19 remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern – its highest alert level, first declared on 20 January 2020 – amid rising cases. ,
In a statement, the committee made up of independent experts highlighted the challenges to the ongoing global response to Covid-19, including declining testing and unregulated genome sequencing, raising the question of whether any country should be able to monitor BA. How accurately can I be able to. .5.
Official data greatly underestimates the true number of infections in the US, epidemiologists say, leaving the country with a significant blind spot as the most commonly transmitted coronavirus variant is still on hold. Some experts believe there could be as many as 1 million new infections each day in the wider US population – 10 times the official count.
As far as managing the new wave is concerned, Jha urged Americans age 50 and older to get a second booster. Adults who are up to date on vaccines are less likely to be hospitalized than those who have not been vaccinated. But only one in four American adults over the age of 50 got the second recommended booster, as data collected by the CDC show.
US health officials are urgently working on a plan to allow a second Covid-19 booster for all adults, a senior White House official confirmed on Monday, amid fears that young adults may have reduced immunity because Covid-19 cases rise with dominance. of B.5.
What Makes BA.5 Different?
Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, called BA.5 “the worst version of the virus we’ve ever seen.” He explained in a recent paper: “It takes the already widespread immunity to the next level and, consequently, greater transmittance” than previous versions of Omicron.
In other words, BA.5 can easily evade immunity from previous infections and vaccines, increasing the risk of re-infection. Although the variant does not cause more severe disease, in an interview on Monday, Topol said that given the extent of BA.5’s immune evasion, he expects hospitalization, as we have seen in Europe and elsewhere. But have seen. Where the variant took root. “One of the good things is that it doesn’t match ICU admissions and deaths like previous variants, but it’s certainly worrying,” he said.
Public health experts in the US can take comfort from the variant’s trajectory in Europe. WHO’s Ryan said last week that while many European countries are experiencing a surge in hospitalizations, “what we are not seeing is an increase in admissions to intensive care units, so vaccines are still working.” And it’s the gaps in immunity that are causing the problem.”
But even so, a sharp decrease in COVID-19 surveillance around the world is hindering the efforts of epidemiologists as they race to track the evolution of the virus.
“Omicron’s subvariants such as ba.4 and ba.5 are causing waves of cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the world,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Significant reductions in surveillance – including testing and sequencing – are making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variants on transmission, disease characteristics, and the effectiveness of countermeasures.”
“New waves of virus again demonstrate that Covid-19″ [pandemia] It’s not even near the end,” he said.