Concern about new Corona variant before the start of summer

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In March, the first cases of the highly contagious variant XBB.1.16 were reported in Austria. Now it is under strict surveillance by WHO.

While all corona measures are gradually being abolished in Austria and the number of new infections has also fallen sharply, the World Health Organization (WHO) of all places is now causing a stir with a new coronavirus report: It has put the new Corona variant XBB.1.16 on the watch list.

“We are seeing characteristics that point to an increased capacity for infection,” WHO emergency director Mike Ryan said Tuesday in Geneva. He said trends in recent weeks show that XBB.1.16 could lead to an increase in cases worldwide.

Omicron offshoot XBB.1.16 was first detected in India in January. The variant now accounts for 4.2 percent of the 3,000 total virus sequences submitted. Just a month ago, it was only 0.5 percent, according to WHO. “This variant could continue to spread worldwide, and it could lead to an increase in cases,” Ryan said.

In Austria, the first cases of the new lineage were reported in March but have remained limited, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES): “Sequences of lineage XBB.1.16 are detected at very low levels in Austria.”

The all-clear is given about severe courses of the disease. The WHO emergency director explained there are currently no signs that it causes more severe periods of the disease. According to current knowledge, the symptoms are the same as with other variants.

Seven variants are currently listed on the WHO watch list (variants under monitoring VUMs), with another at the next higher level, “variant of interest” (VOI). There are currently no variants of concern (VOCs) listed.

In the first week of May, the WHO Emergency Committee will again consider whether to maintain the highest alert level for the coronavirus pandemic or recommend lifting the “emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).

In the first week of May, the WHO Emergency Committee will again consider whether to maintain the highest alert level for the coronavirus pandemic or recommend lifting the “emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).

According to Ryan, many countries are at the point where they are experiencing relatively few severe illnesses with high vaccination rates. For them, coronavirus no longer represents an emergency, but that is far from true for all countries, Ryan said. In four weeks, he said, three million infections were still being reported at last count – although testing is almost nonexistent in many places, more than 23,000 deaths related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

  • source: geute.at/picture: pixabay.com
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