And with over a hundred new cases every day, plus multiple deaths being reported per day, these kinds of crowds are dangerous, especially with the delta variant in the country. That's the form of the pandemic and its third wave which has been most deadly to the population during the course of the year, 2021.
Well, the world's health authorities are now paying close attention to a new mutation of the virus that was first detected in South Africa. It is called Omicron, and the World Health Organization officially designated it as a "variant of concern" on November 26, 2021.
Scientists are attempting to stay ahead of this new mutation by conducting studies on the severity of illness it causes, its ease of transmissibility from person to person, and whether or not it evades the currently established vaccines.
At this time, it is too early for the authorities to say definitively if this variant negates the immunity established through past infections or vaccines. According to Belize's Dr. Marvin Manzanero, however, the virus' characteristics suggest a higher possibility of re-infection.
Here's what he had to say about it this morning on Sunup on 7 when he appeared as a guest:
Dr. Marvin Manzanero - Health Professional
"A comparison between the number of mutations that the Delta variant has, and this new Omicron. We look at slide #6, all that is in that third column, all those mutations in the first column is the Delta Virus. That is the difference in terms of the number of mutations. Now, if you go back to Slide #4, the spike protein is what will - as I had mentioned - help the virus become attached to our human cell, which can lead to infection. So, once that virus has had 32 mutations, it is speaking about the virus' ability to now infect in a different manner. So, that means that even if you have become infected, and you have developed natural immunity, it could be that these mutations are basically leading or making the virus reinfect you, even if you've had natural immunity. That's one of the first things. It may actually make it easier for the virus to gain entry into the cell. Of course, it's kind of difficult to compare it to what the Delta variant has done, or is doing. 2 things that have been noted though is that in that region of South Africa, this variant has basically displaced the Delta variant in a rather short time so that it could mean that it is becoming more easily transmitted. That's one, and the amount of persons who have become infected in such a short period is much, much higher than what the Delta variant initially provided when it became more predominant in some regions. So, out of the 32 different mutations, in that specific spike protein, 3 of those mutations seem to suggest that the virus may have increased transmissibility. Mutations don't mean that there's something added. Sometimes, something get's deleted out of a virus. So, in this mutation, there are 3 deletions, if you will, in terms of your protein structure, that may allow it to evade previous immune exposure. That means if you've had the virus COVID-19, that this new strain is going to evade whatever defenses you've mustered. 15 of these mutations would help the virus to become more easily attached to the host cells, and there are at least 4 mutations that are speaking about how the virus goes about evading antibodies."
Doctors from South Africa are reporting that patients infected with the "Omicron" variant are presenting with mild COVID symptoms.
International news reports say that the world's leading vaccine makers are also attempting to stay ahead of this new Omicron variant. They are conducting early studies with the intention of tailoring their vaccines to address.
In the US, the Biden Administration is encouraging its population to get booster shots.