COVID-19 Omicron Variant (B.1.1.529): Implications and Reminders for Dentistry
In this video, Dr. Aaron Burry, the Canadian Dental Association’s COVID-19 Team Lead and Deputy CEO - Professional Affairs, provides an update about growing reports of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that has been detected in South Africa. This variant is associated with travel from South Africa and has now officially been named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as, Omicron.
Here are key takeaways from this discussion:
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
- It is reported that this variant has significantly more variation than previous variants. For example, reports are suggesting 10 mutations compared to 2 of previous strains.
- This variant has been detected in passengers arriving by air from South Africa through mandatory testing protocols.
- There are reports that the variant has been detected in a Belgian female citizen who has recently traveled to another country with no connection with travel to South Africa.
- A number of countries, including the U.K. and Singapore, have banned air travel from South Africa.
- Canada has also recently enacted travel restrictions in light of new COVID-19 variant.
WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW AT THIS POINT IN TIME
- The new variant is in circulation around the globe, based on the detection in Europe not associated with travel from South Africa.
- The WHO naming the new variant has brought it to a level of being a “variant of concern.” This may mean that there will be a heighted focus on public health measures, such as quarantine for those who come into contact with infected individuals.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
- We DON’T know that this variant is more transmissible. This is speculation at this point in time.
- We DON’T know that this variant will lead to more severe illness.
- We DON’T know whether current COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective against this variant.
IMPLICATIONS FOR DENTISTRY
- At this point in time, there are no direct implications for Canadian dental practice as there are no reports of the Omicron variant in Canada.
- A history of international travel remains on many screening questionnaires and depending on the jurisdiction, provincial and territorial regulatory bodies may require the implementation of additional restrictions related to general activities and potentially dental care.
- Caution is recommended at all times since there are increasing reports of individuals traveling internationally and subsequently testing positive for COVID-19, despite having been vaccinated.
OTHER IMPORTANT REMINDERS FOR DENTISTRY
- Think locally: be extra cautious in areas of low vaccination rates or where clusters, in general, are reported.
- Infection control measures should remain at an elevated level for the next year. This includes renewed vaccination for all dentists and staff, N95 masks and full eye protection.
- Hand and surface sanitization reminder: the current spike in influenza cases is associated with a significant reduction in hand sanitizing and cleaning in public areas.
- Consider monitoring the vaccination status of patients for whom it has been longer than 6 months since their last dose.
Information about COVID-19 can change quickly. This post was created and last updated on November 26, 2021.
Canadian Dental Association:
World Health Organization:
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Until next time!
CDA Oasis Team