- James Gallagher
- Health and Science Correspondent, BBC News, Paris
Preliminary studies published in the United Kingdom and South Africa indicate that symptoms caused by the omicron variant appear to be less severe.
Early evidence suggests that fewer people need hospitalization to deal with the virus, compared to other variables, with a reduction ranging from 30% to 70%.
However, there are still concerns that although omicron is milder, the increasing number of cases is being overwhelmed. a Hospitals.
More than 100,000 cases were reported in the UK in a single day for the first time since the pandemic began.
In Scotland, a study looked at the number of people who ended up in hospital after contracting the virus. The investigation details that if Omicron behaved the same as the delta variable, an estimated 47 people would end up in a health facility. In contrast, there are currently only 15 people in hospital.
The researchers noted a reduction of about two-thirds in the number of people requiring hospital care, but in the study there were a few cases of older adults, who represent the population at greatest risk.
Jim McMunnam, the national incident manager for Covid-19 for the Scottish Public Health Service, described the findings as “good news”.
He said the data “fills a void” on protecting vaccines from hospitalization, but cautioned that it was “important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves”.
The omicron variant is spreading incredibly fast, and if a large number of cases emerge, it could reduce any of the benefits we’ve gained in fighting the pandemic.
Prof Mark Woolhouse from the University of Edinburgh said: “A single infection can be relatively mild for the vast majority of people, but the possibility remains that all of these infections could occur at the same time and put a serious strain on the NHS (National Health Service).”
Meanwhile, another study in South Africa also indicates that the omicron wave is lighter than previous waves.
However, it does indicate that there were no differences in the effect of the variable between people who ended up in hospital.
“Our data indicate a positive history of lower omicron intensity compared to the other variables.”Professor Cheryl Cohen, of the South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said:
Why less severe?
The lower omicron intensity is thought to be a combination of the characteristics of the variant and the higher levels of immunity provided by previous vaccines and infections.
An analysis by Imperial College London indicates that its mutations made the virus milder than the delta variant.
The chances of getting to the emergency room after an omicron infection are 11% lower than in delta, if the person did not have immunity before, the researchers said.
The same analysis highlights that having an immunized population reduces between 25% and 30% the risk of an emergency room visit due to oomicron infection. It also reduces the need to stay in the hospital for more than a day by about 40%.
Prof Neil Ferguson, one of the researchers, commented: “This is clearly good news, to some extent.”
However, he cautioned that the reduction “was not enough to fundamentally change the paradigm” and the speed with which omicron is spreading, meaning that “there is a possibility that hospitalization will continue to be treated in numbers that could jeopardize systems health.”
Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College London who was not part of the investigations, argued that early signs suggested the variant might be less severe, but argues that all three studies showed it “turned into a cold”. “misinterpretation”.
Some lab studies have shed light on why the oomicron is less sharp.
The University of Hong Kong found that the alternative hits the airways better, but it doesn’t penetrate lung tissue in the same way, where it can do more damage.
For its part, the University of Cambridge found that the variant was not very good at binding to lung cells, something that happens in the lungs of people who have become seriously ill.
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