South African doctors say omicron Covid is milder and more contagious than delta

Doctors in South Africa are seeing dozens of patients every day with omicron Variation of Covid who are not sick enough to be hospitalized.

The omicron variant first emerged in southern Africa last month, and medics and scientists there are saying that the signs suggest it is quite mild compared to the delta variant that preceded it.

Dr Unben Pillay sees dozens of patients every day, but he says they all have milder symptoms than those who are used to. Delta.

But he and other doctors suspect that the omicron variant is more contagious and spreads faster than delta.

Omicron has been found to have more than 30 mutations in its mutant protein, which is thought to help it evade natural immunity and vaccines, and make it more infectious than delta.

Dr. Pillay said of his patients with the omicron variant, including the elderly and those with existing health problems: “They can manage the disease at home.

“Most have recovered within a 10- to 14-day quarantine period.”

Dr. Pillay practices in Gauteng province – South Africa’s most populous region with 16 million people, as it includes Johannesburg’s largest city and the capital, Pretoria.

The province saw a 400% spike in new Covid cases in the first week of December, and testing showed omicrons to be responsible for more than 90% of them, according to health officials.

Dr. Pillay has said that his delta variant patients in the final wave of the virus have difficulty breathing and lower oxygen levels, and “many need to be hospitalized within a few days”.

His omicron patients have milder flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and cough, he said.

In the weeks since omicrons were first reported in southern Africa, doctors have reported similar symptoms in patients.

South Africa’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases says only about 30% of people hospitalized with Covid in recent weeks have become seriously ill, less than half of what it was in the first weeks of previous pandemics. .

The average length of hospital stay has become shorter, from 8 days to about 2.8 days.

Only 3% of hospitalized Covid patients have died recently, down from about 20% in previous outbreaks.

Willem Hanekom, director of the African Institute of Health Research, said, citing national institute figures and other reports: “Right now, almost everything is pointing towards a milder illness.

“It is early days and we need to get the final data. Usually hospitalizations and deaths happen later, and we only have two weeks in this wave.”

Last month, Dr Angelique Coetzee – the South African doctor who first raised the alarm about omicrons – told the BBC that omicron patients she has seen have also experienced symptoms which she describes as “extremely mild”. .

Meanwhile, the number of new cases continues to increase. South Africa confirmed 22,400 new cases on Thursday and 19,000 on Friday, up from about 200 a day a few weeks ago.

Health Secretary Joe Phaahla said the new surge had infected 90,000 people in the past month.

He added, citing studies that say omicrons have caused 70% of new cases across South Africa: “Omicrons have fueled a resurgence.”

Caution is advised until more information is known about omicrons.

In the UK, Christina Marriott, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, advised people with mild symptoms – especially those who live and work around people who are more susceptible to Covid – should get tested because they may misdiagnose Covid as a cold. .

AP Supplemental Report South African doctors say omicron Covid is milder and more contagious than delta


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