Early indications from South Africa seem to show the symptoms may be mild for the omicron variant. Doctors in the country are reporting extreme fatigue and short-term body aches and headaches related to the variant but not major symptoms that attack a patient’s lungs. However, the variant is far too new for concrete evidence that it’s less deadly than previous variants.
“We still don’t have a whole lot of data whether it’s going to cause more severe infection,” Cunningham said.
Dr. Teena Chopra, director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Detroit Medical Center and the director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University, warns early evidence isn’t enough to say the variant isn’t as deadly.
“We still need to look at real world data on severity, because most of the cases in South Africa were among young people,” Chopra said. “We need to wait a few weeks for clinical data. I’m not yet comfortable saying it’s less dangerous.”
Chopra expects better data on the dangers of the variant to emerge from South Africa next week.
Cunningham, however, said the identified mutations appear to point to the variant being less susceptible to monoclonal antibody therapies, which have been critical in preventing serious illness in certain infected populations. The therapy, used in hospitals and clinics across the region and U.S., is shown to reduce hospitalizations in at-risk groups by as much as 70 percent.
Cunningham also urges universal mask wearing in public indoor spaces to protect from the current fourth surge and to slow the spread of the omicron variant.
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Read, “FAQ: What we know and don’t know about the omicron COVID variant” from Crains Detroit