Health & Fitness Omicron is causing a range of illnesses from mild to severe, but vaccines will offer some protection, WHO says
South African doctor reveals 'unusual' new symptoms of Omicron
Dr Angelique Coetzee, who runs a private practice in Pretoria, said she first noticed earlier this month that Covid patients were presenting with a host of odd symptoms but had not lost their taste or smell.Dr Angelique Coetzee, who runs a private practice in the South African administrative capital of Pretoria, said she first noticed earlier this month that Covid patients were presenting with a host of odd symptoms.
People with theare experiencing a range of symptoms from mild to severe disease, but existing vaccines should protect against serious illness, the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s leading Covid experts have said.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’stechnical lead, insisted it was still “early days” in assessing whether the new strain, now present in 23 countries worldwide, is more infectious, causes more severe disease or makes the less effective.
Scientists should be able to present early information on how infectious Omicron is “within days”, Dr Van Kerkhove told a virtual press conference from Geneva.
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THE OMICRON Covid variant, first detected on November 25 by scientists in South Africa, has spread to several countries around the world so far including the UK - but where in the UK has Omicron been identified?In the UK, three cases had been reported across the nation as of Sunday, but an additional six in Scotland were confirmed on Monday.
But she said there was currently “no indication” that existing vaccines will not provide any protection at all and should prevent severe disease.
And WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said: “We know that vaccines are likely to have some protection. We still need to find out if there’s any loss of protection, but we think vaccines will still protect against severe disease as they have against the other variants.”
Dr Van Kerkhove said: “In terms of the severity profile, we have seen reports of cases with Omicron that go from mild disease all the way to severe disease.
“There is some indication that some of the patients are presenting with mild disease, but again it is early days. We do have a surveillance bias right now in terms of the cases that are being detected.
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OMICRON - the new Covid 'variant of concern' - is wreaking havoc with global travel and sparking international panic. So what are the symptoms of this new variant?It's important to note very little is known about the effects Omicron has on the body at this stage, and these symptoms might not prove to be the norm.
“There is also a suggestion of increased hospitalisations across South Africa, but that could be the sheer fact that we have more cases.
“If you have more cases you will have more hospitalisations.”
There are now reports of Omicron in 23 countries and in five out of six WHO global regions, but that is expected to increase, Dr Van Kerkhove said.
“It is certainly possible that one of the scenarios is the virus, as it continues to evolve, may still have a fitness advantage, meaning that it can become more transmissible – [if it is] more transmissible than Delta we will have to see – but we don’t know quite yet about the severity.
“I do think we should caution about a best case/worst case scenario, the more this virus circulates the more infections there will be, the more infections there will be, the more people will die. And this is the thing that can be prevented.
“Everything we can do for Delta, which is worldwide, needs to be applied and strengthened for Omicron. However this unfolds, the way that we act now is decisions that are taken now in every country will benefit however Omicron unfolds.”
And Dr Van Kerkhove added: “Vaccines are saving lives. And we need vaccines to get into the arms of all of those who are at risk in every single country, not just in some countries, and not adding more vaccines to people who are already protected, but getting that first and second dose to those individuals who are at risk in all countries.
“But there’s no indication to suggest that the vaccines won’t work. Even if there is a reduction in efficacy, it’s still better to have the vaccine because it will save your life.”
The reasons why the omicron strain of the coronavirus appears to be milder .
Experts warn that it is still to early to draw definitive conclusions about this new variant, but studies suggest it is not intrinsically less serious, and rather is able to reinfect people who already have good defenses , making it seem less serious.The question is whether the new variant is in fact milder than previous ones. US biologist Marm Kilpatrick from the University of California puts it this way: “The short answer is that we don’t know yet.” The Imperial College report shows that the likelihood of ending up in hospital with omicron is up to 45% lower than with delta.