The World Health Organization on Friday said the COVID omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries, up from 23 two days ago, with early data suggesting the strain is more contagious than delta.

Iran PressAmerica: “We do see an increasing growth rate, we see increasing numbers of omicron being detected,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said during a Q&A livestreamed on the group’s social media channels Friday, adding: “But we have reports of omicron in 38 countries in all six WHO regions.”

According to cnbc, “there is a suggestion that there is increased transmissibility, what we need to understand is if it’s more or less transmissible compared to delta,” Van Kerkhove said, noting that the delta variant is still dominant across the globe.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said “clearly the virus does appear to be transmitting efficiently.”

“And we saw that before with delta. So again, there are certain things we shouldn’t be surprised with,” Ryan said. 

Omicron has some 30 mutations on the spike protein, which is the mechanism used to bind to human cells. Some of these mutations are associated with higher transmission and the ability to escape immune protection, according to the WHO.

South African scientists this week found that omicron is associated with a “substantial ability” to reinfect people who already had COVID-19, compared with past variants of the virus. The study, published by the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, has not yet been peer reviewed.


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