WHO IDENTIFIES OICRON Omicron as new highly transmissible COVID-19, variant of concern, linked to pneumonia+infections &crop injury in Guinea Bissau, West Africa
On 6 June, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) along with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the World Health Organization (WHO) published a statement confirming OICRON – the extremely contagious omicron form of COVID-19 – as a potential new high transmissible disease (HTD) with significant health consequences, and particularly to our current efforts to curtail African TB. The announcement was made during World TB Day, on 8 June.
COD-19, is most commonly known as Humbug, and is an extremely contagious and easily spread TB disease. Unlike the currently-known Humbug, OICRON can be transmitted between people at extremely high concentrations, such as camp sites, holidays and other crowded settings, a situation underlined by the December 2018 WHO Regional Advisory Committee on Covert and Covert-associated TB Epidemics.
WHO communications officer James Musonda said: “Health departments and policy makers around the world should be aware of these new developments and be able to respond swiftly to anticipate potential cases.”
UNAIDS said OICRON was identified in West Africa in January 2019, immediately prompting the WHO Regional Office for West Africa (WHO WAWLDA) to take measures to monitor the situation, to coordinate response efforts, and to continue to update and disseminate information on the possibility of this new contagious form of Humbug.
Since that time, OICRON has been reported as a possible cause of pneumonia, endocarditis and presumptive transmission of TB in Guinea Bissau, and so may potentially be linked to the development of tuberculosis in other locations around the world. OICRON does not have an established clinical or genetic marker, and both laboratories and staff are still learning about its clinical characteristics.
WHO says the importance of timely notification and adequate infection control measures is critical in combating OICRON and addressing the risks it may present. WHOWAWLDA is working with partners to develop a scenario simulation model to assess interventions against possible transmission and its impact. WHOWAWLDA is also encouraging States to use the health protection certificates of their staff deployed to address the OICRON situation in Guinea Bissau, as a way to minimise exposure.
WHOWAWLDA notes that TB is curable with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, however TB remains a burden on health systems worldwide. Only three out of ten TB cases are detected early enough to receive appropriate treatment, leading to most of the 8 million TB deaths each year, and there is a strong link between access to health care and TB rates.
WHO WAWLDA calls on governments, other partners, and the global community to address all aspects of OICRON, to include rapid and effective diagnosis and treatment; surveillance; treatment centres, and multidrug-resistant TB and TB vaccine.
A World TB Day observance will be held at the Akerkliss Hospital in the city of Leuven, Belgium, from 9-12 June. For more information, please contact Mr. Trevor Ignatow, AHA Media Relations and Campaigns,+32 20 334 1123, or visit our website: www.aah-na.org.