WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease
The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.
Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.
- The WHO named Omicron "a variant of concern" based on evidence that the strain possesses significant mutations that may evade immune systems and drive a new wave of infections.
- The agency reiterated that preliminary data suggests there may be a "higher risk of reinfection" with Omicron, adding that the "number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant."
What they're saying: "Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron," the organization said in a statement.
- "There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants," it continued.
- "WHO will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available."