Omicron variant, Dr. Coetzee: “Different but mild symptoms”

The South African doctor who discovered the new mutation calls for calm: “So far no patient has been hospitalized. We have never seen any serious effects.”

The Omicron variant need not worry, the symptoms are very mild. “This is reiterated by South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, who in an interview with Repubblica tells how on November 18 she discovered the new variant, later christened ‘omicron’ by WHO. “We have had no Covid patients for about eight weeks. In mid-November, a 33-year-old man arrived. He had mild symptoms but different from any that I had seen until then. I decided to take the test because we were still faced with a viral infection. When the fourth member of his family tested positive, with the same mild symptoms, a light bulb went on. ”

The doctor explains that “it’s like a switch has been turned on. They were symptoms never seen before. When the fourth family member of my first patient also tested positive, I said to myself, there is something wrong here. I texted my colleagues on the task force, writing, ‘Hey, something is happening here. It is not the Delta variant. It’s different’. Our scientists quickly researched the viral sequences. The confirmation arrived on Monday 22 November: this is a new variant “.

The symptoms, Coetzee explains, are “fatigue, headache, itchy throat, slight cold. They did not match the Delta ones we had seen up to ten weeks earlier. We decided to test them because they were similar to those of a viral infection. So far, no Omicron patient has been hospitalized. We have never seen any serious effects. The interesting thing is that the patients with severe pain in the throat were all negative ”.

But what might the large number of mutations found in Omicron entail? “That’s just what our scientists are trying to figure out. Now we don’t know. Nobody knows. We’ll probably have some answers within the next couple of weeks.” For the moment, however, “the symptoms are very mild and are the same for vaccinated and non vaccinated people. The patients are now very well, and we will be testing them again shortly. None presented any noteworthy problems. And consider that we have arrived at the twelfth day of the discovery. They all recovered quickly, in two to five days. ”

Finally, as far as contagiousness is concerned, “only the members of the family of patient zero became infected. The other contacts of the positive cases are all negative. We could say that the degree of contagiousness is more or less similar to that of the Delta variant. No more and not too severe “.

In light of what you have observed, how do you assess the international reaction and the measures taken to avoid the entry of the new variant? “Exaggerated. I agree with the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa. Surely we will see other cases with this variant, but they are not really sick. I would have understood the closure and the fear if we had seen the explosion of serious effects. But we did not have them. seen. None of them have ever been hospitalized. ”

How is the situation in Gauteng, the epicenter of Omicron? “Don’t worry. Yesterday 2,264 patients out of 10 thousand people tested were positive”. Pending the results on this new variant, what do you feel like recommending? “You don’t have to panic. If you experience these kinds of symptoms, like the ones described, for more than two days, get tested. Get vaccinated, wear a mask and don’t stay in crowded places.”