- James Gallagher
- Health Correspondent, BBC
2 hours ago
The outbreak of the omicron mutant appears to be becoming milder, according to preliminary studies published in Britain and South Africa.
Early evidence suggests that fewer people currently need hospitalization than need care due to other variants of COVID-19, with estimates ranging from 30 to 70 percent.
But the concern remains that even if Omicron is milder, the huge number of cases could overwhelm hospitals and affect their capacity.
Britain witnessed the registration of more than 100,000 cases of the omicron variant in one day for the first time since the outbreak of the epidemic.
A deeper understanding of omicron’s severity will help countries determine the most appropriate means to respond to the virus.
The study, which took place in Britain, tracked the Corona virus in Scotland and the number of people who end up in hospital.
The study said that if the omicron variable behaves like the delta variable, about 47 people would already be expected to be hospitalized. But at the moment there are only 15 people ever.
The researchers revealed that they saw a decrease of nearly two-thirds in the number of people who needed hospital care, but there were very few cases, and a small number of elderly people at risk, according to the study.
Dr Jim McMenamin, Public Health Scotland’s COVID-19 response officer, described it as a “good and appropriate news story”.
He said the data “addresses the shortfall” on protection from hospital treatment, but cautioned that it was “important not to get ahead of events”.
The omicron variant spreads surprisingly quickly, and a large number of cases would eliminate any benefit from being much milder than the other variants.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, stressed that individual infections can be relatively mild for the vast majority of people, but the possibility of all of these infections occurring at once, is a serious strain on the public health authority.
Meanwhile, another study in South Africa indicates that the Omicron wave was milder.
The study showed a 70-80 percent decrease in the likelihood of needing hospital treatment, depending on Omicron’s comparison to previous waves, or other currently known variables.
However, she noted that there was no difference in outcomes for the small number of patients who ended up in hospital with omicron.
Professor Sherrill Cohen, from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in South Africa, said: “Convincingly, our data tell a positive story about lower omicron severity compared to other variables.”
Why Omicron is milder?
The reduced risk is believed to be a combination of basic characteristics of the omicron variant as well as high levels of immunity in citizens after vaccinations and previous exposure to infections.
Omicron’s analysis by Imperial College London indicates that Omicron’s mutations made it a milder virus than Delta.
The chances of seeking emergency health care due to Omicron would be 11 percent lower than Delta’s if you had no previous immunity, the researchers said.
However, this now applies to relatively few people in Britain due to the high levels of vaccination and infection.
The same analysis indicated that the population’s immune calculation means that the risk of visiting emergency units in hospitals due to Omicron decreases by 25 to 30 percent, and the percentage rises to 40 percent with regard to the need to stay in hospital for more than a day.
Prof Neil Ferguson, one of the researchers involved in the study, said: ‘Obviously it’s pretty good news.
However, he cautioned that the decline in risks from Omicron “was not enough to significantly change previous expectations from simulations” and the speed with which Omicron is spreading means that “there is the potential for hospitalization to continue in numbers that could put the NHS in a difficult position”.
Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College who was not involved in the study, said early signs suggested the variant could be less severe, but said the controversy in the three studies that showed the variant “just turned into a common cold” would be “wrong.” In explaining the situation.
Laboratory studies have suggested possible reasons why Omicron is milder.
The University of Hong Kong found that the omicron variant was better at infecting the airways, but worse at reaching the deeper tissues of the lungs, which can cause more damage.
The University of Cambridge found that the alternative was not as good at fusing lung cells together, which is what happens in the lungs of severely ill people.
Britain’s Health Security Agency is expected to publish early data from the real world on Omicron soon, which could give further indications of the severity of the mutation.
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