The transmissibility of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in Canada – where it could soon become the dominant strain – is seen by infectious disease experts as potentially problematic.
In Ontario, the only province that has tracked its fertility rate (R value), the variant is infecting nearly four times more people than the delta version.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said, “It’s safe to say that this is a very fast-moving version that is moving fast and probably the major version here in Ontario by the end of this week.” Will happen.” ,
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In Ontario, recent data released by Science Advisory Table shows the R value for omicron at 4.01, according to Dr. Andrew Morris, infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. said it was “unprecedented” as it never reached that high at any point during the pandemic. In comparison, the Delta variant has an R value of 1.09. The last time both the variants combined was recorded at 1.32 on December 10.
The R values for the variants combined show that the pandemic is not over, but Omicron’s data paints a clearer picture – that the epidemic could spiral out of control if preventive measures are not implemented.
Essentially, one person would infect four people, which would then infect 16 and then 64 people which would infect 256 people and so on. The doubling effect will happen every five days.
If the R value was correct, it could cripple Canada’s health system in a matter of months, as millions of Canadians would become infected and re-infected with COVID.
What is the R value of COVID-19?
The closer the fertility rate — also called the “R number” — the closer to zero is, the better. The lower the number, the less the virus is spreading in the community, meaning hospitals are less overwhelmed and intensive care units are not exceeding their capacity.
The R value describes how many people a COVID-positive person can infect; If one person infects only another person, then R is one. If one person infects two people, the R value is two. The higher the R value, the faster the spread.
“If you have a reproduction number of one, it means that one person will pass it on to someone else. Essentially, you are in a steady state … even if it is increasing over time, it is very slow and is stable,” said Morris, a member of the Ontario Science Advisory Table for COVID-19.
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The R value is a strong indicator of whether an epidemic is dying or progressing, Bogoch said, and if Canada does not respond to appropriate sanctions, the situation could be catastrophic.
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“If your R value is less than one, you’ve got a shrinking epidemic. If your R value is greater than one, you’ve got a growing epidemic,” Bogoch said. “If your value is higher than number one, the epidemic is accelerating.”
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Morris compares R value to social media. He said that if you only have one follower on social media, you can’t make that much of an impact. But, if you have a high number of followers, your potential to go viral is very high as there are more people to raise a message. That person with a large following will be like someone in real life who meets a lot of contacts, or attends big events and turns out to be someone who can infect a large number of Canadians .
The R value cannot be captured in real time, so instead, the data is used to understand the problem which usually occurs over a seven- or fourteen-day period. Data from various resources are used to determine the spread of the virus, including the number of people who have been infected, hospitalized or died.
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In the most recent modeling data presented on December 10, data from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed that the R value of COVID-19 in Canada was 1.11. Data up to 27 November were used to determine the R value. The agency’s modeling data came with some caveats and warned that the R value “may not capture the current state of the pandemic.” If the cases are very few and then suddenly increase by a few hundred, it may artificially increase the R value.
“As R is highly sensitive to the number of new cases reported, community outbreaks within specific provinces and territories will cause estimated R values in that respective region to be higher, which may not always accurately depict overall transmission in the province or territory.” could do,” he wrote in the modeling report.
But Morris said that is not happening in Ontario or across Canada. He said that a large number of cases are spreading across the country and the R value is increasing continuously, which is a cause of trouble.
Outside Ontario, only three provinces record their R values on a regular basis. In Alberta, where military intervention for COVID-19 is still ongoing, the province’s R value averages 0.96 with data from November 29 to December 12.
Quebec, which regularly reports the R value every two weeks, found their figure was on the high end with 1.24 on 12 December.
BC released its data on December 2, showing an R value in the province at 0.99, just a hair below one. The province is expected to release more recent data on Tuesday afternoon.
Concerns about Omicron R value holdings are right
If the Omicron R value is correct, Morris said it would be “disastrous” for the health care system.
There are preventive measures that can be used to limit the spread. Lockdown, social distancing, masking and reducing in-person contact – all these measures will reduce and limit transmissibility. If measures are not implemented and used vigorously, and if the R value of the omicron is indeed higher than the delta, the level of toll on the health care system can be severe.
“If the growth rate is aggressively high and accelerated, and if it results in a fair number of hospitals, it will be very difficult for the health care system to absorb those numbers,” he said.
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Morris said Ontario’s health system could handle hundreds of patients at any given time, but when the number crosses into the four digits, it can be worrying.
“If there were a thousand (patients) in a week, it would have been quite challenging,” he said.
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