- James Gallagher
- Health and Science Reporter, BBC News, Paris
Preliminary studies published in the UK and South Africa indicate that symptoms caused by the Omicron variant appear to be less severe.
Preliminary evidence indicates that fewer people need hospital treatment to combat the virus, with a reduction of 30% to 70% compared to other types.
However, there are still concerns that although Omicron is mild, an increasing number of cases are overwhelming. a hospitals.
The UK has reported more than 100,000 cases in a single day for the first time since the pandemic began.
In Scotland, one study looked at the number of people who ended up in hospital after contracting the virus. The investigation details that if Omicron had behaved similarly to the Delta variant, an estimated 47 people would have ended up in a health facility. In contrast, currently only 15 people are hospitalized.
Researchers found a reduction in the number of people who needed hospital care by about two-thirds, but there were few cases of older people in the study, who represent the population at greatest risk.
Jim McMenamin, the national events director for COVID-19 for the Scottish Public Health Service, called the findings “good news”.
He said the data on the safety of vaccines from hospitalizations “fills in the blanks”, but cautioned that it is “important not to get ahead of ourselves.”
The Omicron variant spreads incredibly fast and if there are a large number of cases it could nullify any gains we are getting in the fight against the pandemic.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “A single infection may be relatively mild for most people, but the possibility is that all these infections occur at the same time and place serious pressure on the NHS (National Health Service). )”.
Meanwhile, another study in South Africa also shows that the omicron wave is lighter than previously thought.
However, it suggests that there is no difference in the effect of variance between people who end up in the hospital.
“Our data suggest a positive history of low omicron severity compared to other variants.”Professor Cheryl Cohen from the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Why less serious?
The low severity of the oomicron is believed to be a combination of the properties of the variant and the high level of immunity conferred by vaccines and previous infections.
An analysis by Imperial College London suggests that its mutation makes it a milder virus than the delta variant.
The chances of getting to the emergency room after being infected with Omicron are 11% lower than Delta if the person didn’t already have immunity, the researchers said.
The same analysis highlights that having an immunized population reduces the risk of going to the emergency room due to infection with Omicron by between 25% and 30%. This reduces the need to stay in the hospital for more than a day by about 40%.
One of the researchers, Professor Neil Ferguson, commented: “This is clearly good news, up to a point.”
However, he cautioned that the reduction was “not enough to drastically change the model” and the speed at which Omicron spreads, implying that “there is a possibility that hospitalizations will still be received in numbers that will be in the system.” health.
Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College London who was not part of the investigation, argued that early indications indicate the variant may be less severe, but would argue that all three studies showed that it was “a Turned into common cold”. “misinterpretation”.
Some laboratory studies shed light on why Omicron may be less severe.
The University of Hong Kong found that the variant infects the airways better, but does not penetrate lung tissue in the same way, where it can do more damage.
For its part, the University of Cambridge found that the binding to lung cells was not so good, something that occurs in the lungs of critically ill people.
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