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Health And Family

PCRs detect Omicron, studies under way for other tests: WHO

Agence France-Presse
PCRs detect Omicron, studies under way for other tests: WHO
A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant Omicron. A flurry of countries around the world have banned ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant, including the United States, Canada, Australia,Thailand, Brazil and several European countries. The main countries targeted by the shutdown include South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
AFP/Phil Magakoe

GENEVA, Switzerland — While PCR tests can detect infection with Omicron, studies are looking to whether the Covid-19 variant of concern has any impact on other test types, the WHO said Sunday.

"The widely-used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants," the World Health Organization said in an update on what is known so far about the new variant.

"Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests."

The WHO on Friday declared Omicron, first detected earlier this month in southern Africa, to be a variant of concern.

The classification put Omicron into the most troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally dominant Delta, and its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Omicron spread across the globe on Sunday, shutting borders and renewing curbs as the EU chief said governments faced a "race against time" to understand the strain.

The variant has cast doubt on global efforts to battle the pandemic due to fears that it is highly infectious, forcing countries to reimpose measures many had hoped were a thing of the past.

In its update, the WHO said it was "not yet clear" whether Omicron spreads more easily from person to person, or whether infection with the variant causes more severe disease compared to other strains.

"There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants," the UN health agency said.

While preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of people who previously had Covid being reinfected with Omicron, information is currently limited.

The WHO said it was working to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing counter-measures, including vaccines.

As for treatments, the organisation said corticosteroids and IL6 receptor blockers would still be effective for managing patients with severe Covid-19 — while other treatments would be assessed to see if they are still as effective against Omicron.

The WHO has said studies into various aspects of the new variant would take several weeks to reach conclusions.

"WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron," it said.

"More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks."

COVID-19 VARIANT

OMICRON

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 2, 2022 - 11:32am

Follow this page for updates on the new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa. Photo courtesy of the The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

August 2, 2022 - 11:32am

The Department of Health says an emerging Omicron subvariant, BA 2.75, had been detected in two individuals from Western Visayas.

June 3, 2022 - 2:57pm

The Department of Health confirms the detection of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.5 in the Philippines.

The DOH says two individuals from the same household in Central Luzon tested posiive with the subvariant.

Both patients have unknown exposure and have no travel history.

May 13, 2022 - 1:53pm

The first cases of Omicron BA.2.12.1 COVID-19 variant have been detected in the National Capital Region and Palawan, the Department of Health says.

The first two cases in NCR have both received their booster shot and are now tagged as asymptomatic and recovered after completing home isolation.

Meanwhile, 14 tourists and 1 local tested positive in Puerto Princesa City on April 29. All cases are now asymptomatic.

May 12, 2022 - 8:43am

North Korea on Thursday confirms its first-ever case of Covid-19, with state media calling it a "severe national emergency incident" after more than two years of keeping the pandemic at bay.

The official KCNA news agency says the case was "consistent with" the virus' highly transmissible Omicron variant. — AFP

May 5, 2022 - 7:56am

Two new Omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in reported Covid cases in South Africa, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, stressing the importance of testing to monitor virus mutations and spread.

The heavily mutated and highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases. 

Omicron has long been known to have several sub-variants, with BA.2 by far the most dominant. 

But now the South African scientists who first identified Omicron are pointing to two other Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, "as the reason for a spike in cases" in the country, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference. — AFP

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