The Ministry of Health sent a circular to directors, epidemiologists, laboratory heads of the Health areas and for public and private hospitals with recommendations and to be alert for the new omicron variant of covid-19.
Salud explained that the appearance of mutations is a natural and expected event within the evolution process of viruses.
He added that since the initial genomic characterization of SARSCOV-2, this virus has been divided into different genetic groups, in fact, some specific mutations define the viral genetic groups (also called lineages), which are currently circulating on a global scale.
Due to various microevolution processes and selection pressures, some additional mutations may appear, generating differences within each genetic group (called variants).
He highlighted that the South African Ministry of Health reported on November 24 the identification of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.529 detected on the 23rd by viral genomic sequencing with samples processed between November 14 and 22 in Gauteng province.
This lineage has a high number of mutations previously observed in other variants of interest (VOI), concern (VOC) of the virus and additionally more than 30 mutations in protein S.
He added that on Friday, November 26, the Technical Advisory Group on the Evolution of the SARS-COV-2 Virus (TAG-VE) reported that the lineage variant B.1.1.529 to the World Health Organization (WHO) that given the evidence that we have may arise a harmful change in the epidemiology of covid-19, it should be designated as a VOC, calling it the WHO omicron variant.
The WHO makes recommendations to countries for the new variant of the coronavirus.
- Improve surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating variants of SARS-COV-2.
- Submit complete genomic sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.
- Report initial cases / groups associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.
- Where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, conduct field research and laboratory evaluations to improve understanding of the potential impacts of VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures , diagnostic methods, immune responses, neutralizing antibodies, or other relevant characteristics.
Alert in Guatemala
The Ministry of Health highlights in the circular that for the new variant it is declared an epidemiological alert and asks to take action.
- Intensify surveillance, prevention and control actions in populations of travelers and migrants.
- Intensify actions of timely detection and active search for cases in silent municipalities or with an increase in cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.
- Ensure timely registration and notification actions in all diagnostic centers authorized by the Ministry of Health.
- Guarantee availability of supplies for diagnosis (rapid and molecular) and shipment of samples to reference laboratories.
- Intensify the actions of the strategy of contact tracing and follow-up of outpatient cases at the national level, with emphasis on departments and municipalities with an increase in cases or deaths.
- Carry out and disseminate in its area of influence the clinical-epidemiological characterization of the cases.
- Monitoring and dissemination of data on hospital bed occupancy percentages with emphasis on data in Intensive Care Units.
- Identification of clusters of municipal and local cases and deaths for the timely implementation of control, treatment and prevention actions.
- Also disseminate at the national, departmental, municipal and community levels the risk of increased transmission that this variant represents in the country, which can lead to an increase in serious cases and possible deaths, as well as emphasize that the established prevention and control actions are continued. in the current Ministerial agreements related to covid-19, with clear messages and in local languages.
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- Orders the sending of samples to the National Health Laboratory of people who consult their health services to carry out the SARS COV-2 diagnostic test and who have recent travel history, entering the country in the last 15 days (independent of antigen test result).
Prioritized shipment of samples from suspicious patients with the following characteristics:
- Returned migrants
- Travelers from any country.
- From border departments or high commercial influx (Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Izabal, Petén, Chiquimula, Jutiapa, Zacapa).
- Departments with tourism areas (Sololá and Sacatepéquez).
- Increase in severe cases in children.
- When a case appears with symptoms not reported by WHO.
- Cases of reinfections.
- Any other indication that is issued nationally or internationally during surveillance.