World Health Organization updates variant names to track Omicron’s rapid evolution – CBC

Greek alphabet will still be used for SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern; XBB.1.5 named variant of interest

Mar 16, 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) is updating the naming system for variants of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — to better reflect Omicron’s global dominance and track its ongoing evolution.

Going forward, the organization’s tracking system — a Greek alphabet-based approach to naming major variants of concern — will consider the classification of Omicron sublineages as either variants under monitoring, variants of interest or, in the case of the biggest potential threats, as variants of concern.

Since February 2022, “Omicron and its many sublineages have almost completely replaced other variants,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist who serves as the technical lead for WHO’s COVID-19 response, noted in a series of social media posts.

The family of Omicron-related viruses now accounts for more than 98 per cent of the publicly available sequences, WHO said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the previous naming system didn’t have the “granularity” needed to compare them.

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