Omicron 5, Prof. Pregliasco explains what to expect from the new Covid variant

Prof. Pregliasco explains everything we need to know about the new Covid variant Omicron 5, with an eye on the autumn

As of today, we are in the midst of a transition phase from an endemic covid-19 trend to the end of the pandemic in the strict sense.

This does not mean a resolution or archiving of the problem, but the need for coexistence with the virus.

We can imagine the course of the virus as waves, i.e. not a constant value, but oscillating ripples that hopefully resemble the waves caused by a stone in a pond, i.e. a tendency in the future for these to diminish.

With the emergence of the new Omicron BA.5 variant and the resumption of contagions, albeit with much milder symptoms, the question mark over the fate of the virus’ spread in the coming months has rekindled the famous alarm bell that we had briefly kept off.

Moreover, the arrival of the holidays, more than ever, leads us to take precautions for a safer and, hopefully, covid-free summer.

But will this really be the case? We asked Professor Fabrizio Pregliasco, medical director of the IRCCS Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi.

The contagiousness of the new variant Omicron 5

“We were already on pre-alert for an increase in contagions in the autumn, but the presence of this new variant Omicron BA.5 surprised us,” explains Prof. Fabrizio Pregliasco.

This virus has an extreme contagiousness, even higher than that of measles and chickenpox, with an R0 ranging between 15 and 17: just think that the Wuhan variant had an R0 of 2.5, while the Delta had 7!

These values represent the average number of secondary cases compared to an index case, thus values that make it much more fearsome (one person can infect 15 or 17 others)’.

Omicron 5, what kind of virus is it

‘This variant, a little more benign, but not too much so (a mistake to consider it as a simple flu!), is an ‘adapted’ virus that replicates in the first airways, developing into colds, headaches and even a few cases of dysentery, with lesser disease outcomes, however.

This is because the majority of the population has either been vaccinated or has been vaccinated and fallen ill and recovered.

Thus a background of immune responses that often did not prevent the infection, but rather ensured a more mundane course.

In this variant, at the moment, it is possible to identify an element of risk in the near future, undoubtedly due to a physiological increase that, in recent times, has led to a more concrete return to ‘normal life’ thanks to vaccinations, with fewer restrictions, less use of masks, but, consequently, with greater exposure to contagion, an important element that must always be taken into account’.

The development of the new Omicron 5 variant

The Omicron 5 variant, which is more widespread, can also cause an early wave pattern, i.e. with a rise, a fall and probably a further rise this winter.

The virus, as it is born, does not follow a ‘smart’ line, but are variations that take hold depending on the virus’s improving characteristics in terms of its ability to spread.

How to defend yourself against the new Omicron 5 variant

‘The good news is that, according to a recent study, Long Covid is present in Omicron 5, but in smaller percentages than in the other variants,’ the expert continues.

The real problem is that, with so many cases, the final result could be less in percentage terms, but higher in terms of absolute cases.

This is what we should face in the future, because covid is not only the disease in its acute and severe phases, with the parainfluenza symptoms, but also and above all the after-effects, like all infections.

I believe that the over-80s should definitely go ahead with the fourth booster dose to give the immune response and memory T-cells an extra boost.

Presumably next autumn, vaccines will be available for the Omicron variant, using the latest virus as a base, and a vaccination campaign similar to that for influenza will also be planned, with a booster proposal for everyone, but one that is more stringent for the frail’.

“As for the summer, of course, let’s not let our guard down too much, let’s use masks as if they were sunglasses, especially for frail people or caregivers who, by defending themselves, are also defending their families.

It is crucial,’ Pregliasco concludes, ‘to use the new viral drugs, in collaboration with one’s General Practitioner, who can prescribe and administer them, especially to frail individuals, in order to reduce and counteract the more severe forms of the disease’.

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