Three separate teams of scientists working on two continents have discovered that Omicron infections are more likely than earlier variants of the coronavirus to result in mild illness, providing hope that the current outbreak may not be as catastrophic as previously anticipated despite the soaring number of cases reported.
Using Omicron as a model, the researchers looked at how the virus spread among populations in South Africa, Scotland, and England. Despite the fact that the findings in each scenario were preliminary, they all revealed that the variation was less likely to send patients to the hospital.
As Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University in Atlanta, said, “Given the fact that this disease is everywhere, and given the fact that it is going to be so transmissible, anything that lowers severity is going to be better.”
Researchers have tried to determine if the Omicron version causes more severe sickness than other variants since its discovery in southern Africa in November, and if so, in which individuals.
According to the latest study, the version may include biological characteristics that make it less harmful than Delta, the variety that has swept the planet since the summer.
However, the decreased risk of hospitalisation associated with Omicron in all three nations seems to be attributed in substantial part to immunity in the respective populations. Many of those who were ill had previously developed immunity to severe disease, either as a result of prior infections or immunizations.
As encouraging as the new study is, medical professionals warn that the Omicron outbreak that is sweeping across several nations may still lead hospitals to overflow with patients due to the fact that the variety transmits so much more quickly than prior variants of the coronavirus.
Dr. Ramirez recommends that people meet outdoors, open windows, or find other methods to increase ventilation before attending holiday gatherings, and that they perform quick tests beforehand.
Even while Omicron seems to be producing lesser sickness on average, it is spreading at a quicker rate than any other variety that has been identified so far. It has risen to become the dominant variety in the United States, Europe, and many other parts of the globe in recent years.
As the number of illnesses in the United States increased to an average of 154,000 cases per day over the previous week, federal health authorities strengthened their defences against the growing danger to hospitals. Following the approval of the first medication to treat Covid-19 by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, patients will have access to a very effective therapy for a serious sickness.
The medicine, produced by Pfizer and marketed under the brand name Paxlovid, has been approved for use in Covid patients aged 12 and older who are at risk of developing a serious illness. A Pfizer spokesperson has said that the company’s medicines are likely to be effective against the Omicron version.
The findings of three trials conducted in the United Kingdom and South Africa show that immunizations and booster doses will provide some protection against serious illness in the United States. More than 200 million Americans — or more than 60% of the population — have already received all of their recommended vaccinations.
While other nations have immunised over 80 percent of their people, the United States falls behind in this regard. Even more concerning, just 63 million Americans have had booster shots, which give the most effective protection against severe sickness and infection from Omicron.
An epidemiologist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health named William Hanage said that the new data demonstrated that those who were not vaccinated and had not yet received Covid were at particularly high risk.
Because Omicron is spreading at a rapid pace, the likelihood that they will get infected in the next months is substantial, according to him. As a result, they will not be protected against the illness, which will make it more severe.
When people are unvaccinated and have never been infected with the virus, Dr. Hanage says the virus is somewhat less severe than the Delta virus. That, on the other hand, is like to claiming that you’re being beaten over the head with one hammer instead of two hammers. As a result, the hammers are more likely to strike you.”
An epidemiologist at the University of Strathclyde who was a co-author of the Scottish research, Chris Robertson, cautioned that the Christmas season would hinder the collection of data that he and his colleagues would need to update their conclusions.
An organisation known as the Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, which is maintained by a group of modellers, made it apparent that even as they fine-tuned their forecasts, the writing was already on the wall in a statement released on Wednesday.
“According to the best available knowledge at this time, the danger presented by Omicron is considerable and urgent, and people and governments should be prepared to react in a timely and appropriate manner,” they said.