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Early data on severity of Covid Omicron variant is ‘encouraging’, says Fauci – NBC Chicago


  • Preliminary data is starting to emerge that could give us a clearer picture of what we’re dealing with as experts take a look at the first observations of omicron.
  • White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday the initial data was “encouraging,” but warned more information was needed to fully understand the variant.
  • The World Health Organization designated the new variant of Covid omicron as “of concern” less than two weeks ago.

Preliminary data on the severity of the omicron variant of Covid is “a little encouraging,” White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday following early figures from South Africa which suggest that it may not be as bad as initially feared.

However, Fauci warned that more data was needed to paint a full picture of omicron’s risk profile. The World Health Organization said the variant was “of concern” on November 26, prompting a wave of international travel bans and new Covid restrictions.

“Obviously in South Africa omicron has a transmission advantage,” Fauci told CNN, adding that “although it is too early to make definitive statements on this, so far it does not not seem like there is a great degree of severity. “

“But we really have to be careful before we determine that it is less severe or that it doesn’t really cause any serious disease comparable to the delta, but so far the signals are a little encouraging regarding the severity,” Fauci said. . .

At least 15 U.S. states detected the omicron variant on Sunday and that number is expected to rise, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said over the weekend.

It comes as South Africa sees an increase in Covid cases attributed to the omicron variant, as well as an increase in hospitalizations. Given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Covid omicron variant, experts are closely monitoring real-world data coming from South Africa.

Preliminary data

A report from the South African Medical Research Council, released on Saturday, suggests the strain could cause a milder infection. It is, however, too early to tell if it has a higher risk of death, given the relatively low amount of data and the date the variant was detected.

The report also found that more younger people were being admitted to hospital with Covid omicron infections, but this could be linked to lower vaccination rates among these age groups in South Africa.

The document details the situation over the past two weeks at the Steve Biko / Tshwane District Hospital Complex in Gauteng Province where omicron was first detected, and which is now experiencing a skyrocketing increase in Covid cases.

The report’s main observation was that the majority of patients were not oxygen dependent (as was common in previous waves, according to the report) and that most patients in Covid departments were “accidental Covid admissions” “, having had another medical examination or surgical reason for admission to hospital.

These findings follow anecdotal reports from South African doctors that the omicron variant may cause milder symptoms. The South African doctor who first detected the virus said she had seen “extremely mild” symptoms in her own patients, but there was no official data to support these observations.

Age profile

However, the report – which only looked at a small number of patients – noted that “what is clear though is that the age profile is different from previous waves.”

Analyzing 166 patients admitted to hospital between November 14 and 29, the report found that “the age profile differed markedly from the previous 18 months”, with many more younger adults and children admitted to the hospital. ‘hospital.

“In the past two weeks, as many as 80% of admissions were under the age of 50. This matches the age profile of admissions to all public and private hospitals in Tshwane and across Gauteng Province over the past two weeks. … Nineteen (19) percent were children aged 0-9 and the highest number of admissions were in the 30-39 age group, accounting for 28 percent of the total, ”notes The report.

He said the increase in hospital admissions of young people could be the result of lower vaccination rates among young people, saying: “It may be an effect of vaccination. because 57% of people over 50 have been vaccinated in the province compared to 34% in the 18 to 49 age group.

Siphiwe Sibeko | Reuters

A woman wearing a protective mask against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and a plastic bag over her head to protect herself from the rain watches, as the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus spreads, in Tsomo, a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, December 2, 2021.

There have been no Covid-related deaths among 34 admissions to Covid pediatric wards in the past two weeks, according to the report.

It is important to note that the patient information presented in the report represents only the first two weeks of the omicron wave in Tshwane district; the report itself warned that “the clinical profile of admitted patients could change significantly over the next two weeks, at which time we can draw conclusions about the severity of the disease with greater precision.”

Still early days

While these early data can be encouraging, it’s important to keep them in perspective: they are based on preliminary results from a small number of people.

When the omicron variant, or B.1.1.529 as it is officially called, was first reported to WHO (by South Africa on November 24, the first known sample being on November 9), the United Nations health agency has warned that some of the mutations found in the variant are associated with higher transmission and the ability to evade immune protection.

“We are seeing an increase in the growth rate, we are seeing an increasing number of omicrons being detected,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer for Covid-19, said during a press briefing on Friday. “There is a suggestion that there is increased transmissibility, what we need to understand is whether it is more or less transmissible compared to the delta.”

She added that there was a growing number of hospitalizations recorded in South Africa, but public health officials had yet to see an increased risk of death, although they were awaiting more data. .

Experts and vaccine makers have noted that it could take several weeks for the true risk profile of the variant to emerge, as well as its potential response to current Covid vaccines.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Monday that there was an urgent need for citizens to be vaccinated, saying that “scientific evidence shows that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the spread of new infections, and that vaccines reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death. “

“While we don’t yet know what impact the omicron variant will have on hospital admissions, we are preparing hospitals to admit more patients, and we are studying how we can quickly get drugs to treat Covid-19,” a he added.

NBC Chicago

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