COVID-19 Updates – Omicron: The latest COVID Variant and Tracking its Spread

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    As new COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, Professor Roger Seheult, MD, breaks down the latest information on the Omicron variant and examines its spread in South Africa.


    Omicron: New COVID Variant 

    In our 142nd update, Dr. Seheult discusses the new Omicron variant (B1.1.529), discovered in South Africa. He notes that Omicron has a concerning number of mutations compared to previous variants, making it easier for the virus to bind to ACE-2 receptors in humans and better avoid detection by the immune system. 

    The main questions scientists are working to answer about Omicron include, 

    How transmissible is it?

    How well does it evade current vaccines?

    How deadly/virulent is it? 

    To answer these questions, additional transmission-related epidemiological studies and vaccine-related studies must be performed. At present, there is no data or evidence that Omicron is more virulent than other variants.

    Dr. Seheult also discusses some medications including Paxlovid, Molnupiravir, and Fluvoxamine which have shown to reduce mortality and hospitalizations by 83%, 30% and 30%, respectively.  Preliminarily, these medications appear to be effective against known variants. 


    Omicron: Tracking South African COVID 19 Spread

    In our 143rd COVID-19 update video, Roger Seheult, MD of MedCram examines the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa and an innovative technique for monitoring SARS-CoV-2. 

    Preliminary data from several sources including this Worldometer Chart of Daily New Cases in South Africa identify a small increase in daily new cases.

    This article, from the Daily Maverick, looks at wastewater surveillance testing data from cities in the Gauteng province of South Africa, identifying the amount of viral particles (nucleic acid/RNA) that are shed from COVID-infected individuals into wastewater. As more people become infected with COVID-19, an increase in shed particles occurs, providing a good method to track an increase in infections in a given area that otherwise may not be tracked due to testing limitations. Data from this testing showed an uptick in the amount of infections. However, at present time this testing cannot identify specific variants.

    Dr. Seheult then references this Update on Omicron from the World Health Organization (WHO) which discusses its specific transmissibility, symptoms, and disease severity. A post by Dr. Michael Mina, former Harvard professor, states that rapid antigen tests detect Omicron, which is supported by this information from Abott, manufacturer of rapid antigen and PCR tests.


    Stay Tuned for More COVID-19 Updates 

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    Meanwhile, you can find all of our COVID-19 videos compiled here.

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