Michael Gove announced on Monday the government will launch a five-year, nationwide targeted vaccination programme against the very contagious and potentially deadly strain of Acinetobacter baumannii. The UK’s first two infections of the deadly Omicron variant of bacteria – the most virulent form of the bacterium affecting healthcare in healthcare workers around the world – were confirmed in the UK earlier this month. No deaths have been reported.
An investigation into the two infections continues as the new strain has been found across five nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that SARS-like developments of the Omicron variant in the UK will put much of healthcare at risk and urged all countries to test for the strain. However, there is still no evidence that healthcare workers have contracted the pathogen and the prime minister was said to be told by health ministers at the G20 summit in Argentina that the patients had no lasting damage.
The WHO believes there are up to 160 to 180 people infected across the world with the pathogen and warns the spread of the infection could be caused by infections by air travel to and from countries affected. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the outbreak presents a global health emergency and put out a worldwide alert to raise awareness and support for Javid to act. In a statement, Ghebreyesus said, “The WHO is alarmed by the rapid spread of this outbreak across multiple countries and the ongoing uncertainty regarding the exact route of infection.
“The only way to limit future outbreaks and mitigate the consequences is to act now. Omicron baumannii is highly contagious and there are increasing health risks to communities from increased air travel, especially in regions with limited health systems. At this stage, it is not possible to predict when the outbreak will end or how long it will last.”