How deadly is the Omicron variant? WHO releases death report

Omicron variant: Doctor warns of risk of reinfection

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South African scientists were the first to sequence the new Covid variant before it arrived in Europe in late 2021, uploading their findings to GISAID on November 22, and officials have since reported hundreds of thousands of daily cases across several countries. Scientists have discovered that Omicron poses a new danger, achieving enhanced vaccine escape by trading in some severity. Reports, most notably one from the WHO, have delved deeper into the threat it poses. 

How deadly is the Omicron variant?

Experts have found Omicron mutations allow it to escape immunity provided by both vaccine doses.

Early research shows it reduces two doses of Pfizer to 30 percent effectiveness, with AstraZeneca potentially down to zero. 

While the booster can reforge it back to 75 percent, the programme is still some distance from covering everyone, meaning many are at Omicron’s mercy. 

In a report released last month, the organisation said that of the 38 countries touched by the variant, none have reported Omicron-specific deaths.

Since then, it has spread rapidly, and one person in the UK has died with the new variant. 

Recent data suggests the disease Omicron causes is milder than its predecessors. 

Preliminary studies published in the UK and South Africa have found between 30 percent and 70 percent fewer people require hospital treatment. 

Concern pursues, however, as Omicron could still overwhelm hospitals in the UK. 

The “tidal wave” warning from the Prime Minister and his advisers touches on the variant’s enhanced transmissibility, and with 100,000 cases per day, it will inevitably impact hospitals. 

Researchers working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) believe it has “substantial” resistance to natural immunity provided by previous infections.

Findings from the South African institute followed a real-world study of each variant that identified people were 2.4 times more likely to get reinfected with Omicron.

The results, although not yet peer-reviewed, concluded evidence pointed towards a “substantial and ongoing increase in the risk of reinfection”.

And the researchers called for an “urgent” investigation into whether Omicron could do the same with vaccines.

They added they would also need to measure the “potential implications of reduced immunity to infection on protection against severe disease and death”.

Officials believe the variant also causes alternative Covid symptoms.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, identified three symptoms associated with Omicron.

Researchers have identified these as milder than those caused by the other variants.

The symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headaches

Are severity and death the only things people need to worry about?

Omicron, whether more or less deadly, still causes sickness, and for many the experience is intensely unpleasant. 

Some will find they feel unwell for weeks and months on end in ways other viruses such as the common cold or flu cannot. 

A scratchy throat could turn into a full-blown fever in a matter of days, and the disease may linger as “long Covid”, which can prove extensively disabling, for many months or a year more. 

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