UK on alert for first death and “tide of contagion” by omicron variant: A warning for the US? | Univision Salud News

The United Kingdom has just announced the first confirmed death in that country from the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Possibly there have already been others undetected before and it will not be the only one. Are there reasons to worry?

“A tide of omicron is coming”Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned this Monday when they reported 1,576 new cases of omicron in that country that already has a total of more than 4,000 reported of it (40% of the total), although it is believed that the real figure is much higher and that it will become the predominant variant in mid-December.

“It is transmitted at a phenomenal speed, something we have never seen before because the number of infections doubles every two or three days“, said to Sky News, the Secretary of Health, Sajid Javid.

The UK raised the national alert level to four, the second highest on the scale, and already many restrictions such as mandatory requirements to wear masks and work from home have been reinstated.

“Putting it aside” theories about milder infections

“I believe that the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus is something we have to put aside and simply recognize the vertical pace in which it accelerates in the population, “said Johnson insisting that” the best we can do is put on the boosters “of vaccines.

“I’m afraid it is now clear that the two doses of the vaccine are simply not enough to give us the level of protection we need,” he clarified.

Before the first death by omicron was announced, authorities had reported 10 people hospitalized for the variant, aged 18 to 85 years. Most had received both doses of the vaccine.

Preliminary studies from the University of Oxford estimate that the Pfizer vaccine provides 35% protection against symptomatic disease, a drastic reduction compared to that offered for other variants that has also been seen in other research on its effectiveness against omicron. The impact of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, the other used in that country, is even less.

However, it has been determined that a third dose increases the levels of neutralizing antibodies considerably, and, although it has not yet been calculated to what extent, it is known that the body has a second line of defense – T cells – derived from the vaccination and previous infection to protect yourself.

A bad omen for the US?

In the past, with other variants such as alpha or delta, spikes in infections in the United Kingdom have anticipated what will happen in the United States, which now faces a delta-driven upturn in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“What happens in the United Kingdom, happens in the United States four or six weeks later”, warned In his Twitter account the infectious diseases specialist from Emory University Carlos del Río.

“It is very worrying to see the United Kingdom take this position because if they see a significant omicron threat with all the good information they handle, it is a warning to the world and we must take it into account,” said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“What worries about the United Kingdom is that they have an immunity composition similar to ours in the United States. If they have a bad experience with omicron, it is a good indicator of the risk we face”, He stressed.

More cases: more deaths and hospitalizations

That more deaths are reported by omicron, as expected, does not necessarily imply that it is a variant that produces a more severe disease.

On the contrary, there are those who maintain that there are reasons to think that it produces milder infections – something that is not confirmed and that may be due rather to the fact that there is a certain degree of previous immunity in the population. Positive news in which it seems that the contagion curve in South Africa, the first country where it was detected, has flattened.

But by simple math, if omicron spreads on a large scale because it is so contagious (as well as partially resistant to vaccines) and COVID-19 cases inevitably increase, a part of those people will end up in hospital or could die. Something that has already been seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

There are still many unanswered questions about omicron, and with time you will have greater certainty about what to expect as it continues to spread around the world.