The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that the spread of Omicron is due to a combination of factors, including the composition of the Covid-19 variant and increased social mixing.
Following a week of record numbers of new cases, Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said people should think about reducing their exposure to the virus and taking control of its transmission.
Omicron, according to Van Kerkhove, transmitted very efficiently between people for a variety of reasons.
To begin with, the virus’s mutations make it easier for it to adhere to human cells.
“Second, is that we have what is called immune escape. And this means that people can be reinfected either,. if they had a previous infection or if they’ve been vaccinated,” she said, in comments circulated by the WHO.
“The other reason is that we are seeing replication of Omicron in the upper respiratory tract — and that’s different from Delta and other variants, including the ancestral strain which replicated in the lower respiratory tract, in the lungs.”
In addition to these factors, the virus’s spread was aided by people mixing more, spending more time indoors during the northern hemisphere winter, and failing to follow precautions such as physical separation.
Last week, the WHO received reports of just under 9.5 million new Covid-19 cases, a new high of 71 percent over the previous week.
“What the general public should be concerned about is limiting their exposure to the virus,” Van Kerkhove said.”We want people to understand and believe that they can control infection in some way.”
She also added that avoiding long-term Long Covid symptoms was “reasonable” enough to try to avoid contracting the disease in the first place.