The British Columbia Center for Disease Control has discovered Canada’s first known case of a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) that has emerged in several other countries and is being monitored by the World Health Organization. This, one expert asserts, reminds us that the virus never went away.
The center says the BA.2.86 variant of the Omicron strain was identified in the body of a person in the Fraser Health region who had not recently traveled outside the province. British Columbia’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement that there does not appear to be an increase in the severity of the strain and that the infected person is not being hospitalized. Disease control says the new strain may have a greater ability to infect people who have already had Covid-19 or received vaccines against Covid-19, compared to previous strains.
The World Health Organization says it is monitoring this variant due to the large number of mutations in it. It was first discovered in Denmark on July 24, and has since appeared in Israel, South Africa, Britain and the United States. Dr. Brian Conway, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, recently stressed in an interview with The Canadian Press that the variant may have been circulating for weeks, if not months, in the country. “This is the evolution of Covid,” he said. This does not surprise me. » Dr. Conway explained that the BA.2.86 variant may not cause more severe disease, but it is more easily transmitted than other strains of the disease.
He explained that “new changes emerge and take charge by overthrowing the previous.” He says that the new vaccine will be the most important means of protection against new variants. This whole situation is a reminder that “COVID-19 never completely goes away.” COVID-19 is still killing about four people a day in Canada, Dr. Conway said, noting that Health Canada data shows 30 COVID-19-related deaths over the past week. As fall approaches and people spend more time indoors and viruses reproduce more easily, “we must prepare for an increase in COVID-related illness, COVID-related hospitalizations, and COVID-related deaths,” according to Dr. Conway.
There is no increased risk
In their statement, Dr. Henry and Mr. Dix acknowledged that it was not unexpected for the strain to appear in British Columbia and Canada, and noted that the risk to British Columbians remains the same. “The coronavirus continues to spread globally and the virus continues to adapt,” they wrote. They continued: “Reducing transmission and achieving high levels of protection through vaccination remain our best defense against all Covid-19 variants.”
They argued that people should “stay home when sick, wear masks when appropriate, follow respiratory etiquette, wash their hands frequently, and most importantly, update their vaccinations.” The XBB.1.5 (Omicron) strain remains the most common strain in British Columbia, the release said.
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