In Serbia, the omicron strain of the corona virus has become dominant, and only in a week it will be known what its real impact is on those who get sick, said for “Politika” Professor Dr. Tanja Jovanovic, virologist and member of the Crisis Staff for the suppression of kovid 19.
Until December 31, in our country, omicron was present in the circulation with 30 percent, and 70 percent was the delta strain of the crown. After the New Year and Christmas holidays, the situation changed.
Tanja Jovanovic (Photo personal archive)
– Now, in the analyzed samples, we find mostly omicron, but we still cannot say what percentage is exactly dominant in our country. The virus has changed in favor of humans and binds to the upper respiratory tract, giving symptoms of colds and mild respiratory infections, and less often pneumonia, especially in the elderly and people with weakened immunity. Now, young people aged 20 to 29 are the most affected. In just seven days, we will see how omicron actually behaves when the older population of 65, to which young people will transmit the virus, starts to get sick more. The question is whether they will also have a milder clinical picture or, after all, they will have to be hospitalized. Probably in this population, it can still cause a severe form of kovid 19 with an uncertain end – Dr. Jovanović wonders.
She assesses the current epidemic situation as masked because of the breakthrough of vaccine and natural immunity, and reminds that the World Health Organization and the American Center for Disease Prevention and Control have clearly stated their position – there is no relaxation and thinking that omicron is a mild strain.
Asked whether this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic or whether we can expect new crown variants in the coming period, Dr. Jovanovic said that all new strains come from Africa, where there is a small percentage of vaccinated people, and that the virus will continue. it may change, but there is hope that it will weaken and occasionally lead to epidemics of mild respiratory infections.
Her opinion is that the fourth dose of the vaccine should be waited for, because the vaccine manufacturers have started working on making doses that will contain modified versions of the virus. “Pfizer” announced the placement of vaccines that will contain the omicron strain in March, and “Moderna” at the end of the year.
And what is the attitude of doctors to the opinion of some people that they should now be intentionally infected with omicron in order to gain immunity?
– I am against such a thesis. It’s playing Russian roulette with a virus. There are numerous factors that determine the severity of the clinical picture of the disease, and we do not even know how to carry many of them – our interlocutor adds.
The session of the Crisis Staff for the Suppression of Kovid 19 will be held today, and Professor Jovanović believes that it is good that the ban on public gatherings for the Serbian New Year’s Eve followed, which the medical part of the staff insisted on.
– I cannot say anything in advance because it is known that at those sessions we ask for a lot, and we get little. We are an advisory body. I understand those members of the staff who are thinking about the economy, but there are situations when we should not be so open. We would not prevent the spread of omicron by harsher measures, but we would prolong the mass infection a little. It is good that, for now, the number of infected people is hospitalized below one percent. In my opinion, it is necessary to establish a complete ban on public gatherings and enable the covid pass to be valid 24 hours a day everywhere, except in pharmacies and grocery stores. Vaccination against kovid should be intensified, and I think that due to the epidemic situation with the crown and the appearance of the flu, classes in schools should take place in an online format – concluded Dr. Jovanović.
Our interlocutor reminds that viral infections have been rampant around the world since ancient times. Despite the fact that the first human viruses were discovered only in the 20th century, numerous infectious diseases of viral etiology have been reconstructed, which in the past posed a threat to humanity. Thus, at the end of the 19th century, a pandemic of respiratory disease was recorded, which spread from St. Petersburg, through Europe to the United States. It was not a pandemic that had a clearly defined beginning and end. It lasted for several years, which can be explained by the smaller movement of the population, which was very limited at that time. The pandemic was documented in detail in the then written media and professional medical journals. The clinical picture described at that time corresponded to the clinical picture of today’s kovid 19. In addition to the characteristic respiratory symptoms, the loss of the sense of smell and taste was especially emphasized. The most endangered were the elderly who developed a severe form of pneumonia during the infection.
– At that time, it was not even known that viruses existed, so it was not possible to prove their presence in patient samples. Methods have now been developed that can detect the virus in patient material within half an hour. But the pandemic of 1889/90. It took place exactly 130 years ago, so it was not possible to directly prove the cause. But, by applying the technique of molecular biology, it is possible to follow the evolution of the virus. Thus, a group of researchers led by prof. Mark van Ranst of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, examining the evolution of the first human coronavirus discovered, called OC43, showed that the virus crossed the species barrier just at the time of the pandemic and entered the human population primarily as an animal virus. The characteristics of this corona virus are very similar to the characteristics of the newly discovered SARS metal 2 – notes Dr. Jovanović.
The OC43 virus continues to circulate in nature. So, it has become an endemic virus, which causes cold epidemics during the winter period, primarily in young children, and rarely in the elderly and immunocompromised people it can lead to severe pneumonia.
Based on previous experience, can we assume the fate of SARS 2 and will history repeat itself?
– It is present in both hemispheres and is very successfully causing the fifth wave of the epidemic. Each wave is caused by the appearance of a new variant of the virus. And each new variant achieves more and more successful communication with a person and is more and more easily transmitted from a sick person to a healthy person. At the moment, the omicron variant is dominant, which spreads like wildfire because one infected person can infect more than ten healthy people who do not have protective immunity for this variant of the virus – notes Dr. Jovanović.
Over time, more and more people will develop immunity to the virus, so the chance of it causing the disease will be less and less. It will probably continue to circulate in nature, which means that like the previous OC43 virus, the corona will remain endemic and occasionally cause seasonal epidemics of respiratory colds. His target group will be children. In the elderly who for some reason have not developed immunity, the virus will continue to give severe forms of the disease.
– If we had carried out mass vaccination on a global level immediately after the discovery of specific vaccines, we could have reached this scenario last year. But, we did not use that chance, so we prolonged the pandemic for another year – concluded Dr. Jovanović.
In Europe, more than seven million newly reported cases of covid 19 were recorded in the first week of 2022, more than doubling in two weeks. Omicron took precedence.