Omicron symptoms ‘completely different’ from Delta COVID-19 variant: South African doctor – Country

Many questions about the newly discovered COVID-19 Omicron variant remain unanswered, but some evidence is emerging that it may not manifest like other strains of the disease.

The president of the South African medical association said patients with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 looked very different from patients infected with earlier variants such as Delta.

“It’s completely different from Delta,” Dr Angelique Coetzee told Global News on Tuesday. She says these patients don’t present with the loss of taste and smell, need for supplemental oxygen, or the elevated pulse rates that doctors have noted with Delta patients.

“It’s very much like a cold or flu,” she said, adding that patients are reporting headaches, body aches and mild sore throat.

“They don’t have a severe cough and they don’t have a runny or stuffy nose like you see with an upper respiratory infection,” she said.

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Overall, patients appear to be less sick than in previous episodes of COVID-19, Coetzee said, although in general, severe illness appears to be several weeks behind infection, and the data are very new.

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This is consistent with the findings of a very small study published on 4 December looking at patients at a hospital in Gauteng province in South Africa, the epicenter of the Omicron outbreak, who had positive for the new variant. The researchers looked at just 42 patients who were hospitalized for two weeks, from November 14 to 29, 2021.

These patients tend to be younger than in previous episodes, with more than 80% of them under the age of 50.

Most of these patients did not require oxygen, the researchers write, in contrast to previous episodes at that hospital. And many of them initially went to the hospital for other reasons, and then tested positive for COVID-19 later.

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Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN on Sunday: “So far, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of severity to it. “But we really have to be careful before making any decisions that it’s less severe or that it actually doesn’t cause any serious illness, comparable to Delta.”

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Don Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at McGill University Medical Center, agrees.

“People have explained that Omicron causes only mild illness. But that is not what was said,” he said. “That being said: what we found in this group of young patients is that the disease is milder to date.”

Click to play video: 'Medical experts recommend caution as Omicron variant spreads'

Health experts recommend caution as Omicron variant spreads

Health experts recommend caution as Omicron variant spreads

The thing is, the early studies were on small groups, and those groups tend to be young people — who tend to have less severe COVID-19 than older age groups — and they have may have had some immunity from previous COVID-19 infections, he said. Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses at the University of Manitoba.

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Because of this, Vinh said, it is really difficult to extrapolate the findings to other populations.

“What happens in Gauteng, stay in Gauteng, if you will,” he said. “We all have different demographics, we all have different ethnicities in our area, and we have different age pyramids. So what happens in Montreal or Toronto may not necessarily reflect Gauteng’s age or demographic distribution. ”

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And while this early research may suggest that Omicron causes less severe disease, he said, hospital admissions in Gauteng province have skyrocketed, suggesting that this variant is still having a negative impact on population, as Omicrons now account for a major percentage of COVID. -19 that case.

Even if Omicron causes less severe illness than other strains, if it’s more transmissible, it’s still dangerous, Kindrachuk said.

“You can get a little attenuated, but if that is hindered by an increase in transmission, you could still encounter similar numbers of people requiring hospitalization or ICU capacity,” he said. just because the transmission is heightened,” he said.

“I think for sure that the data coming from Europe, maybe in the next few weeks, will really make sense,” Kindrachuk said. He’ll be watching to see what happens when Omicron hits older populations, those who have been vaccinated, and those with no previous history of infection, for clues about how the virus works. in Canada.

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However, right now, Vinh said, Canada should not focus on Omicron, as our cases are still growing with older variants.

“The fire before us is still Delta. It is the dominant strain. And we shouldn’t think too far into Omicron when we haven’t even mentioned Delta yet,” he said.

There is no “secret weapon” that governments have saved for a threat like Omicron, he said, and the measures that help fight Delta will also work against Omicron.

“There is both protection and transmission. Protection from disease is through vaccination. Mitigation of transmission is through physical measures such as wearing a mask to prevent airborne transmission, good ventilation, staying away, avoiding gatherings. That is really simple. ”

– with files from the Associated Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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