Friday 26 November 2021

WHO names new virus 'variant of concern' Omicron

The (WHO) World Health Organization released a statement saying that a new Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa is certainly a "variant of concern." USA stocks unfortunately fell and oil prices plunged more than 10% as the emergence of the new virus variant, named Omicron, really rattled global economic markets.

This is the  SARS-CoV-2 Omicron virus variant in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the internet, you could certainly find some scientifically accurate atomic models of the external structure of SARS-CoV-2. You could visualize "balls" as atoms.

The so-called Omicron variant, also known as lineage B.1.1.529, is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The first known case was in Botswana, dated 9 November 2021. On 26 November 2021 the World Health Organisation ("WHO") designated it as a variant of concern and named it for the Greek letter Omicron.

Keep in mind, the WHO has assigned simple, easy to say and remember labels for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, using letters of the Greek alphabet.

There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. The letters of the Greek alphabet are: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu1, xi, omicron, pi1, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi1, psi1, omega.

The Omicron virus variant has an unusually large number of mutations, several of which are novel, and several affect the spike protein used for most vaccine targeting at the time of its discovery. This level of variation has led to concerns regarding transmissibility, immune system evasion, and vaccine resistance. As a result, the variant was rapidly designated "of concern" and travel restrictions were introduced by several countries to limit or slow its international spread.

On 26 November, the WHO's Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution designated B.1.1.529 a variant of concern and gave it the designation Omicron, rather than Nu or Xi which were the next available letters in the Greek alphabet.

The epidemiology of the virus is interesting. The number of cases in the B.1.1.529 lineage is increasing throughout South Africa, mainly in Gauteng. Some evidence shows that this variant has an increased risk of reinfection. Studies are underway to evaluate the impact on transmissibility, mortality, and other factors. Evidence regarding the implications of this variant and vaccine efficacy is under investigation.

In 2020, South African infection rates reached a low on 11 November. Cases peaked in mid-January 2021. Similarly in 2021, cases bottomed out on 11 November, before again rising rapidly, growing 4-fold by 25 November.

On 24 November 2021, the virus variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa. The first known specimen was collected on 9 November 2021 from Botswana. It was also detected in South Africa; 1 case had travelled to Hong Kong, and 1 confirmed case was identified in Israel in a traveler returning from Malawi, along with 2 who returned from South Africa and one from Madagascar. 1 confirmed case in Belgium had apparently acquired it in Egypt before 11 November.

All 4 initial cases reported from Botswana occurred among fully vaccinated individuals. All 3 initial confirmed and suspected cases reported from Israel occurred among fully vaccinated individuals.

Worry about the potential economic impact of the Omicron virus variant led to a drop in global markets on 26 November, including the worst drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2021, led by travel-related stocks. The price of Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate oil fell 10% and 11.7%, respectively. This reaction was described as so-called "overblown" due to the lack of firm conclusions by the medical community.

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