Health

What occurs when WHO runs out of Greek letters to call COVID-19 variants?

With latest reporting more and more specializing in COVID-19’s omicron variant, many are questioning how new strains will likely be named if the World Well being Group reaches the tip of the Greek alphabet.

The overwhelming majority of just lately recognized COVID-19 circumstances in america are attributable to variants of the unique virus, with greater than 98% of all circumstances detected between Aug. 22 and Nov. 27 categorized because the B.1.617.2, or delta, variant of the preliminary virus, in line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

Because the coronavirus continues to mutate and new strains emerge, here is how WHO might identify future variants.

HOW COVID-19 VARIANTS ARE NAMED

WHO introduced in Might that it could use Greek letters to call new variations that required further consideration from medical officers.

The group selected this naming system after convening a number of consultants to debate the perfect strategies. These discussions included “consultants who’re a part of current naming techniques, nomenclature and virus taxonomic consultants, researchers and nationwide authorities,” WHO stated in a press assertion .

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WHICH VARIANTS ARE NAMED

WHO applies its naming system to variants that medical officers take into account “Variants being Monitored,” “Variants of Curiosity,” or “Variants of Concern.”

Variants being Monitored are variants that might have a “potential or clear influence on authorized or licensed medical countermeasures.” Epidemiologists intently monitor these variants and will ultimately change their standing to a Variant of Curiosity/Variant of Concern relying on how they evolve. As of December, the CDC and WHO determine the next variants as Variants being Monitored:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma
  • Epsilon
  • Eta
  • Iota
  • Kappa
  • Mu
  • Zeta
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Variants of Curiosity present markers of their genetic code which have been related to some doubtlessly dangerous adjustments of their make-up. Whereas Variants of Curiosity might not pose an elevated danger to most individuals, their existence requires “enhanced sequence surveillance, enhanced laboratory characterization, or epidemiological investigations” to find out the chance degree.
As of December, the CDC and WHO haven’t recognized any variants as Variants of Curiosity.

Variants of Concern are variants for which there’s “a rise in transmissibility, extra extreme illness, vital discount in neutralization by antibodies,” or different medical components that will have an effect on the power to fight the virus. These variants usually require further motion from lawmakers and medical officers to mitigate the results on the general public.

As of December, the CDC and WHO have recognized the next as Variants of Concern:

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WHY WHO SKIPPED SOME GREEK LETTERS

As of December, WHO has labeled 13 COVID-19 variants with the Greek alphabet. Nevertheless, it skipped the thirteenth (Nu) and 14th (Xi) letters earlier than adopting the fifteenth letter, Omicron, for the most recent variation.

“Two letters had been skipped — Nu and Xi — as a result of Nu is simply too simply confounded with ‘new,’ and Xi was not used as a result of it’s a frequent surname,” a WHO spokesperson advised the Washington Examiner.

Xi, which can be the surname of Chinese language President Xi Jinping, would have breached 2015 pointers applied by WHO that counsel avoiding “inflicting offense to any cultural, social, nationwide, regional, skilled or ethnic teams.”

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As of December, the Greek alphabet has 9 letters remaining, permitting WHO to call no less than 9 further variations earlier than it considers another protocol.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WHO RUNS OUT OF LETTERS

A WHO spokesperson advised the Washington Examiner that there’s “no plan in place but on what to do on the finish of the Greek alphabet.”

Among the many solutions supplied by the Washington Examiner workers are the usage of the Cyrillic alphabet; bat breeds, a reference to the virus reportedly originating in bats; and going again and utilizing xi and nu.

The omicron variant, first found in South Africa final week, has prompted concern amongst authorities officers. President Joe Biden restricted journey from the area in an try to forestall the pressure’s transmission simply days earlier than the U.S. recognized its first and second circumstances of COVID-19 brought on by the variant.

There have been almost 48.5 million circumstances of COVID-19 within the U.S., and 780,131 deaths have been attributed to the virus, in line with the CDC.



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