Omicron symptoms different and milder ? : South Africa study findings

Analysis of roughly 78,000 omicron cases in South Africa, published this week found that the variant is resulting in milder disease compared to previous waves, with 29 per cent fewer hospitalisations than the Wuhan strain and 23 per cent fewer compared to delta. The most common early sign was a scratchy throat, followed by nasal congestion, a dry cough and myalgia manifesting in lower back pain. While most cases tend to be mild, this does not mean that omicron is less virulent; instead  multiple layers of immunity acquired via both infection and vaccination have probably played a significant role in shifting the severity of disease.

Doctors in South Africa said common symptoms – a scratchy throat followed by nasal congestion, a dry cough and myalgia manifesting in lower back pain – were worse in those unvaccinated
Doctors in South Africa said common symptoms – a scratchy throat followed by nasal congestion, a dry cough and myalgia manifesting in lower back pain – were worse in those who are unvaccinated CREDIT: EMMANUEL CROSET / AFP

Sir John Bell, Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Oxford and a UK Government advisor on Covid-19, added that the emerging data suggests omicron is “behaving rather differently” to previous variants.  “I think one of the things we do know is the clinical syndrome is rather different,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “That is, the symptoms people get from this particular virus are different to the previous variants. Sir John listed a stuffy nose, sore throat, myalgia and loose stools as symptoms to look out for.

Currently the NHS lists a high temperature, continuous cough or loss of smell and/or taste as the key symptoms of Covid-19, though the Zoe Covid-19 tracking app also suggests that headaches, a runny nose and sneezing are also common. Angelique Coetzee, a GP who was among the first to raise the alarm about omicron in South Africa, told Sky News that symptoms are worse and more long lasting among the unvaccinated. “Unvaccinated patients seem to experience the severity of the myalgia and headache more intensely than our vaccinated patients,” she said, urging people who develop these symptoms to take a coronavirus test.

Responding to today’s data, the head of the World Health Organization warned against underestimating omicron – which has now been detected in 77 countries across the world. “Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a WHO press briefing, adding he was concerned that people are dismissing the variant as “mild”. “Surely we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said, adding vaccines alone will not halt the variant’s spread. click full source.

So there we have it. Omicron symptoms are very different and hospitalisations are less severe. The proportion of hospital admissions to intensive/high care in South Africa are less with Omicron (13%) compared with 35% for the original Wuhan strain and Beta variant, and 32% for Delta. Only time will tell how it plays out in the UK if infections increase exponentially. The Mayor of London today declared a “major incident” due to the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the capital. Sadiq Khan said Omicron is now the “dominant variant” in London and was having an impact on staff absences in the emergency services across the city. In the last 24 hours, London had seen the largest number of new cases since the coronavirus pandemic began – more than 26,000. click full source.

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