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CDC sets eye on new Omicron variant

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention said it is working with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to evaluate and monitor the path of a new variant named Omicron, which the World Health Organization recently classified as a variant of concern.

Omicron was first reported to the WHO  by South Africa, but CDC said no cases of the new variant have been identified in the U.S. so far.

"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.," CDC said.

"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, and encourages a booster dose for those who are eligible.

According to a Nov, 26 announcement from WHO, the epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the delta variant.

In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on Nov. 9.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs," WHO said.

Health authorities said current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant.

"Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation," WHO said.

"Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage."

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