WHO envoy: Omicron a step towards co-existing with COVID – National & International News – WED 29Dec2021



WHO envoy: Omicron a step towards co-existing with COVID, but risks still unknown. Israel culls half a million chickens after 5,000 cranes die of avian flu.




WHO envoy: Omicron a step towards co-existing with COVID

David Nabarro, a special envoy on COVID-19 for the WHO, confirms that while the omicron variant is more infectious than the delta variant, its symptoms are generally milder in vaccinated or previously infected patients. However, Nabarro urges caution since it’s not yet clear how severe omicron infections will be for elderly people, the unvaccinated, or people with health complications.

Nabarro says that while we must take omicron seriously, there may be room for optimism. “When these kinds of pandemics are evolving,” Nabarro says, “the general pattern that is expected is that the virus becomes more transmissible and less serious over time”. This pattern has been observed in other pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. According to Nabarro, “Everybody who I speak to who’s been studying coronavirus tells me that omicron is a step on the journey towards humanity being able to coexist with this virus”. Ultimately, Nabarro says that “COVID should become not more serious than the common cold”.

Barring the emergence of a strain that is both more infectious and more severe than omicron, Nabarro speculates that cause for concern over COVID-19 may diminish significantly by the end of 2022. For the moment though, the U.S. and several European countries are reporting their highest daily COVID infection numbers since the pandemic began.

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Israel culls thousands of chickens to contain avian flu outbreak

An outbreak of avian flu in Israel has killed about 5,000 migratory cranes at the Hula Nature Reserve. The birds succumbed to a strain called A(H5N1). Workers in biohazard suits collected as many of the dead birds as possible to curb potential spread of the virus. Each year, tens of thousands of migrating cranes spend the winter at the reserve. Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg says the mass die off is “the worst blow to wildlife” in Israel’s history. 

Nearby poultry farmers also had to cull about half a million egg-laying hens. The region produces about 7% of the eggs consumed in Israel. The cull has led to fears of a possible egg shortage that could get worse if the virus spreads.

There haven’t yet been any cases of A(H5N1) spreading to humans. But people who’ve had close contact with any infected or potentially infected birds are receiving preventative treatment.

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