Expert view on severity, symptoms and transmissibility of Omicron.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, South African doctor and chair of the South African Medical Association, who was the first to raise the alarm over new Covid-19 variant Omicron, has said that although the virus spreads very fast, its effects are certainly milder than most of the previously known coronavirus strains. She has however clarified that further studies are required to know of long-term effects from the disease.
Here is a summary of her observations:
- The Omicron strain might be more transmissible, but so far it has been seen to cause a milder disease. Doctors are cautiously optimistic that this could mean the pandemic is on its way to becoming an endemic, which is when the disease stays perpetually within the population but becomes more manageable.
- Symptoms include body aches and pains, fatigue, headache, scratchy throat and malaise. Doctors have noticed that unlike Delta, Omicron does not cause a severely blocked nose, loss of smell or taste, or high fever.
- As of now, from what the medical fraternity has observed, vaccines will protect one against severity of the disease. A health expert in South Africa has noted that the variant is infecting disproportionately large numbers of children, possibly because this part of the population remains mostly unvaccinated.
- The variant has possibly been around for longer than officially known. Many countries were beginning to show a rise in infections before the new variant was detected in South Africa. Omicron can be identified through both RT-PCR and rapid testing. If the symptoms are not the same as those of Delta, one can safely assume it is Omicron.
Since yesterday, South Africa has reported over 16,000 new coronavirus cases, a sharp increase compared with previous weeks, confirming the fast transmissibility of the omicron variant. Omicron (B.1.1.529) has some 50 mutations including over 30 in its spike protein alone. Many countries are continuing to report cases, but it has not been linked to severe disease or death yet.
The World Health Organization has classified it as a variant of concern. Several studies on it are currently underway.