The latest surge in South Africa is a possible glimpse into the next chapter of the pandemic.

Coronavirus cases are rising again in South Africa, and public health experts are monitoring the situation, keen to know what caused the...


Coronavirus cases are rising again in South Africa, and public health experts are monitoring the situation, keen to know what caused the spike, what it says about immunity from previous infections and what are its global implications.

South Africa has seen a drop in the number of cases after reaching an Omicron-fueled pandemic peak in December. But last week, cases have tripled, positivity rates are up and hospitalizations have also increased, health officials said. The outbreak puts the country facing a possible fifth wave.

The peak is related to BA.4 and BA.5, two sub-variants which are is part of the Omicron family.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform in South Africa, said BA.4 and BA.5 to prove how the virus evolves differently as global immunity increases.

“What we’re seeing now, or at least maybe the first signs, are not completely new variants emerging, but current variants are starting to create lineages on their own,” Dr. de Oliveira said. . Since its initial identification in South Africa and Botswana last November, Omicron has produced several sub-variants.

Some scientists are trying to understand what the BA.4 and BA.5 peak in South Africa, which is concentrated mainly in the provinces of Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, says about immunity against previous infections. Omicron. The highly contagious variant of Omicron first appeared in South Africa late last year and then quickly spread globally.

In South Africa, researchers estimate that around 90% of the population has some immunity, partly due to inoculation but largely due to previous infection. However, immunity to infection usually begins to decline at around three months of age. It’s natural to see reinfection at this point, especially given people’s changing behaviors, such as less mask-wearing and more travel, said Dr. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington and alumnus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .

New data show that in unvaccinated people, BA.4 and BA.5 evade the natural defenses produced by infection with the original Omicron variant, known as BA.1, which sent the number of cases is skyrocketing in South Africa last winter, said Dr. de Oliveira. The result is symptomatic infections with the new subvariants.

“That’s why it’s starting to fuel a wave in South Africa,” Dr de Oliveira said.

Scientists are still studying whether this new wave creates milder or more severe disease, and it’s unclear whether both subvariants could crop up elsewhere in the world.

“We are in a difficult global time where the past cannot truly predict the future,” said Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician who led the H1N1 swine flu virus pandemic preparedness response under the Obama administration.

Familiar patterns – a wave in one country means another wave somewhere else – no longer necessarily run like clockwork, Dr Patel said. But monitoring situations and data from countries like South Africa offers reliable signals for understanding the evolution of the virus.

Currently, another Omicron subvariant, BA.2, is dominant in the United States, with BA.2.12.1 also gaining momentum, although public health officials have identified BA.4 and BA. 5 circulating at low levels.

Whichever variant prevails, “the lesson here is that stopping transmission is most important,” said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist who is the head of the Covid-19 task force at the Global Network. of health.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The latest surge in South Africa is a possible glimpse into the next chapter of the pandemic.
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