The new Omicron coronavirus variant – identified first in South Africa, but also detected in Europe and Asia – is raising concern worldwide given the number of mutations, which might help it spread or even evade antibodies from prior infection or vaccination.
The Omicron variant may have already spread — it appears that the Belgium case had not traveled to Africa at all; the only travel was to Egypt and Turkey.
South African genomic scientists said earlier this week the variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with more than 30 in the key spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.
Omicron, a new Covid-19 variant with high number of mutations, sparks travel bans and worries scientistsScientists are concerned those mutations could make the variant more transmissible and could result in immune evasion.Fauci told CNN Friday scientists are working to find out whether the variant could evade immunity, saying its mutations can help hint or predict whether it will be the case.”What you need to do, is you need to get that particular sequence of the virus, put it in a form in the lab where you can actually test the different antibodies, so you can have a prediction that it might evade, or you can actually prove it,” he said.
From the Centers for Disease Control:
CDC Media Statement
For Immediate Release: Friday, November 26, 2021
Contact: Media Relations
On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and has named it Omicron. No cases of this variant have been identified in the U.S. to date. CDC is following the details of this new variant, first reported to the WHO by South Africa.
We are grateful to the South African government and its scientists who have openly communicated with the global scientific community and continue to share information about this variant with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC.
We are working with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more about this variant, as we continue to monitor its path.
CDC is continuously monitoring variants and the U.S. variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.
We know what it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. CDC recommends people follow prevention strategies such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, washing your hands frequently, and physically distancing from others. CDC also recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC encourages a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for those who are eligible.
Travelers to the U.S. should continue to follow CDC recommendations for traveling. CDC will provide updates as more information becomes available.The CDC
“There’s obviously this tension between crying wolf and exacerbating concerns about the variants, but also being caught flat-footed and not responding swiftly enough,” said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation office at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News Contributor. “This is where we have to cautiously respond without inciting panic, because this could easily turn out to be a variant similar to others that have never really panned out to be global concerns.”
Scientists across the globe constantly monitor all newly emerged variants to see if they’re spreading in a meaningful way, and global health authorities have said they’re monitoring this new variant closely.