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January Friday

COVID-19: no more alarm than necessary

HAVANA, Cuba, Jan 12 (ACN) A few days ago, media from around the world began to use words such as flurona and deltacron; the former refers to a simultaneous flu and COVID-19 infection recorded in Israel, and the latter to the combined version of the Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 strains, discovered in Cyprus.

These terms have only set off alarm bells among the world population, the same population that saw the infection curve drop a few months ago with the advance of immunization and which, due to Omicron, is now witnessing an exponential rise in the number of cases even in countries with high vaccination coverage.

We could think that the pandemic will never end, because no sooner had we seen the epidemiological situation improve than the virus decided to change the rules of the game.

However, in these two years, the disease has proved that panic does not help us counteract its impact and that the observance of the health protocols and vaccination are the most effective tools.

The response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to these supposed combinations did not take long: Maria Van Kerkhove, technical chief of the international organization for COVID-19, asked not to use the terms deltacron, flurone or flurone in relation to the pandemic, as they imply a combination of viruses and variants that is not happening.

Krutika Kuppalli, WHO infectious disease specialist, argued that deltacron and flurone do not exist, and that Omicron and Delta did not form a supervariant; we are more likely in the presence of a laboratory contamination of Omicron fragments in a Delta specimen.

What cannot be denied is the high transmissibility of the Omicron strain, considered of concern by the WHO, as it cleverly combines a series of mutations in the S protein that makes it more transmissible and more evasive of immunity, said Dr. Dagmar García Rivera, Director of Research at the Finlay Vaccine Institute.

The Cuban scientist warned that thanks to Cuba’s vaccination strategy we can manage COVID cases in a different way in the face of the new wave, in which the infection rate will continue to increase, but neither the number of serious or critical patients nor the death toll will increase significantly, she said.

In this regard, Doctor of Science Daniel Garcia Rivera, head of the Laboratory of Chemical and Biomolecular Synthesis of the University of Havana, pointed out that the high percentage of vaccinated patients in Cuba and the availability of quick and generalized booster doses is "our trump card" and that the vaccines will not be able to totally eradicate SARS-CoV-2, but they will help turning it into the fifth endemic coronavirus.

This long journey does not end with Omicron, and WHO officials are urging caution. The current infection figures reveal that the greater spread of the variant is having an impact on health systems with an increase in hospitalizations, in addition to other pathologies.

WHO also warns that because of its high transmissibility, Omicron will probably not be the last strain to be classified as a cause for concern, hence the need for greater access by the population to COVID-19 vaccines to reduce the possibility of new mutations arising.

It is essential that we in Cuba increase self-responsibility, maximize self-protection, and get both the vaccines and the booster dose in order to stop the current upward trend of COVID-19 infection.

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