COVID-19 Updates: Numbers & Variants, Novavax approved; Monkeypox in the Headlines
COVID-19 Numbers and New Variants
The new variants of Omicron (primarily BA.5) are now the predominant strains of the virus in the US, and we are again experiencing an uptick in cases. The BA.5 is even more transmissible than other variants, but thankfully does not seem to cause more serious disease. There is evidence that these variants can escape antibodies from previous infections and vaccines; however, booster shots do appear to continue to provide protection against severe disease (see latest article in Science).
There is work being done now on developing a new booster with improved coverage against these new Omicron strains. The dilemma is whether to expand access to the current booster to all adults versus wait for this new booster – this is still under debate.
If you have not yet received a booster shot in addition to your initial vaccinations, I would recommend you get it now. Meanwhile, it is also time to increase the use of precautions when out in public and attending gatherings through mask-wearing, testing, and keeping appropriate distance. Here are some ideas for dealing with our latest surge.
Other good news is that our antiviral treatments (Paxlovid) do seem to be helpful with these strains of virus as well. This needs to be started within 5 days of onset of symptoms.
Novavax COVID-19 Vaccination Approved
The FDA has recently approved the Novavax COVID-19 vaccination as another option for a safe and effective primary vaccination against COVID-19. It uses a more traditional biotechnology as the platform for the vaccine, which may appeal to some. It has not yet been approved as a booster, but may have some benefit for that in the future. “Your Local Epidemiologist” provides more info here.
CDC Link for COVID-19 Information
Just a reminder that the CDC link has great information about all things COVID-19, including testing, vaccinations, treatment, the level of infections in your county, and algorithms for isolation/quarantine. Easy to remember, also: covid.gov.
Here we go again?
As Monkey Pox hits the news headlines, it is important to contrast this risk with that posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Monkeypox is not nearly as easily transmissible as COVID-19, and so far seems to be transmitting predominantly through prolonged physical contact (including intimate contact and non-sexual contact) or by handling clothing/bedding of an infected person, as well as likely through respiratory droplets. The outbreak in the US has mostly affected men who have sex with other men, but there are some cases outside that community as well.
The outbreak has continued to pose questions and concerns regarding our handling of infectious disease outbreaks in general: containment; access to testing, vaccinations, and treatments; public education, etc.