An official at the World Health Organization (WHO) publicly revealed on Tuesday, January 25, that they anticipate that a new strain could emerge following Omicron that could be even more infectious (via CNBC).
There are some health experts who may have earlier believed the end of COVID may be close at hand.
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Health digest reports that while Omicron variant symptoms seem to have been milder than COVID-19 symptoms, this does not mean that all subsequent variants will follow the same downward trend.
Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO official, seems confident that the next emerging variant will become more transmissible.
However, they cannot predict how severe the symptoms will be.
Van Kerkhove stated in a social media Q&A, “The next variant of concern will be more fit, and what we mean by that is it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating. The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe,” (via CNBC).
Future Variants Likely To Be More Transmissible Than Omicron
Experts are also concerned about the effectiveness of new variants in bypassing human immunity as well as vaccine efficacy (via Live Science).
Professor Kartik Chandran, a virologist, and microbiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City predict COVID-19 will keep mutating, telling Live Science, “There’s no reason to believe that the virus has run out of room, genetically. I would expect that we’re going to see more variants, and we’re going to see similar types of wave-like behavior.”
As evidence of the WHO’s belief that mutations will continue, the BA.2 subtype of the Omicron variant has been detected in Europe (via NBC News).
Infectious diseases expert Cameron Wolfe describes the organisms as “brothers in the same family” because they don’t show enough genetic differences to be deemed a separate variant from Omicron.
Maria Van Kerkhove said that future vaccine variants should not be brushed aside as low risk as current vaccines may not be as effective against ongoing mutations.
The WHO’s Director of Emergency Programs Dr. Mike Ryan started, “The virus has proven to give us some nasty surprises.”
For that reason, health officials continue to emphasize the need for social distancing, masking, and vaccination (via CNBC).