The new Corona variant Omicron is causing headaches not only because of its spread, but also because of its name.
Over the weekend in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) explained why it chose this particular Greek letter as the name for variant B.1.1.529 when it classified it as a concern: it was to avoid misunderstanding and stigmatization.
The UN health agency moved some time ago to gradually name emerging variants using the Greek alphabet. This was done to prevent the places where mutants first appear from being used as names and linguistically pilloried.
Ny and Xi
Before Omicron, however, it would have been the turn of the letters Ny and Xi. Ny, which is Nu in English, sounds too much like “new” and would therefore have been misleading, the WHO said.
“Xi was not used because it is a common surname,” WHO explained. Virus names should not offend ethnic or regional groups, the UN agency argued. Xi, while common in China and in countries with Han Chinese populations, is not a very common name, at least in China. There is, however, one very weighty bearer of the name: Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Danger still unclear
Omicron is considered to be of particular concern because the variant has a very high number of mutations. These include mutations in the spike protein. Scientists fear that the effectiveness of vaccines could suffer as a result. Studies on this are currently underway. At the same time, many experts point out that mRNA vaccines can be adapted very quickly to new variants.
Whether omicron is more transmissible than the delta variant currently prevalent in Europe, and whether it causes milder or more severe courses of disease, is also still being investigated. The mutant was first reported in South Africa. The chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, Angélique Coetzee, told the BBC that no severe courses have been observed among the cases registered so far. However, she said the number of cases observed is still very low.
Meanwhile, some countries – including Austria – have already imposed travel restrictions on several African countries.
- source: futurezone.at/picture:wdio.com
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