An Important Message About The Omicron Variant of COVID-19

Press Release

Dec 17, 2021

From the FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer

Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant expected to become the dominant strain over the next few weeks, is causing concerns about its ability to affect many people and potentially prolong the pandemic.

The FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer would like to share the following information about Omicron with all First Nations people in BC as our health and wellness partners and collaborators. We encourage everyone to stay safe and keep informed by reading our website and following all public health recommendations – including getting fully vaccinated, as the unvaccinated are at greatest risk from any strain of COVID-19, and gathering only with those who are fully vaccinated.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a major public health issue across the globe; it has claimed nearly 30,000 lives in Canada alone, including about 3,000 in BC.

We encourage everyone to continue to support each other with lateral kindness. We will get through this, together.

What is the significance of Omicron variant?

  • The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has proven to be very effective in quickly spreading throughout the world. Based on the information to date, Omicron is about three times more transmissible than the Delta variant of COVID-19.
  • As of Dec. 15, 2021, only about 30 per cent of cases of the Omicron variant are travel-related. This means it is now established in Canada and spreading in communities.
  • There is a high risk of large community outbreaks, and the number of cases with the Omicron variant infection is doubling every two to three days throughout the world. International measures implemented at borders have had limited success in preventing the spread.
  • The Omicron variant is expected to become the dominant strain (most common variant) within the next few weeks/months.
  • The Omicron variant appears to cause relatively mild symptoms in cases that have been identified, but people are still reporting fevers and respiratory symptoms.

How many cases of Omicron are there in Canada and in BC?

  • The number of laboratory-confirmed Omicron variant cases continue to rise rapidly and hundreds of cases have been identified across the country to date. More importantly, current numbers are likely underestimates, as there is a time lag for confirmation of tests. In addition, infected individuals are less likely to seek medical attention and testing due to the mild illness.
  • So far we have not received information about First Nations cases of Omicron in BC but two First Nations cases were identified in Ontario in the week of Dec.13, 2021. Additionally, the Alberta region is reporting a cluster of confirmed and probable Omicron cases on reserve, initially associated with travel to the US and then spreading within the community.  All cases from this Alberta cluster are mild and there was no hospitalization among them as of Dec. 16, 2021.

What is Public Health doing in Canada, and in BC?

  • Public Health continues to monitor the number of cases and spread of the Omicron variant in our communities, and to support provincial and national efforts. We will provide updates as information evolves.
  • Based on the evidence of virus spread, public health officials might need to implement limitations on the size of gatherings and other restrictions.

How you can protect yourself, your family, and your community members?

  • Those who are not vaccinated are at the greatest risk of being infected by any variant.
  • While there is some evidence that COVID-19 vaccines may be providing less complete protection against Omicron variant infection, the reduced protection is more pronounced in those who are partially immunized with COVID-19 vaccine, or in those who were fully immunized (two shots) more than 10 weeks ago. This once again highlights the importance of immunization for those who are not yet fully immunized (two shots), are only partially immunized (one shot), or have not yet received their booster dose (if eligible).
  • So far, most reported cases have been among younger people who participated in large gatherings.
  • It is still very important for everyone to follow the public health measures such as hand washing, physical distancing, and mask wearing. Again, limit gatherings to only people who are vaccinated
  • Remember: Stay Safe. Stay Kind. Keep Informed.​

IHT5

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