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Dr Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC on Sunday that she started seeing patients around November 18 with “unusual symptoms” that are slightly different from those associated with the delta variant, which is the most virulent. globally dominant strain of the virus to date.
“It actually started with a male patient who was about 33 years old… and he told me he had just finished [been] extremely tired the last few days and he has body aches and headaches, ”she told the BBC.
The patient did not have a sore throat, she said, but rather a “itchy throat” but no cough or loss of taste or smell – symptoms that have been associated with previous strains. of the coronavirus.
Coetzee said she tested the male patient for Covid, and he was positive, as did her family, then said she saw more patients that day have the same types of symptoms that differed from the delta variant.
This prompted her to sound the alarm bells at the South African Vaccine Advisory Committee, of which she is a member.
“What we are seeing clinically in South Africa – and remember I am at the epicenter of where I practice – is extremely gentle, for us. [these are] mild cases. We didn’t admit anyone, I spoke to other colleagues and they give the same picture. “
Coetzee’s first observations are based on only a very small number of cases, and experts are concerned about the large number of omicron mutations. According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests that the strain has an increased risk of reinfection.
Read more: WHO labels new strain of Covid, named omicron, a ‘variant of concern’, citing increased risk of possible reinfection
Early data suggests that the variant is spreading in South Africa faster than previous variants and that the variant, officially known as B.1.1.529, could start to trigger a new wave of infections, according to an analysis from the Financial Times.
It might take some time to fully understand what specific symptoms, if any, are attributable to the new, larger-scale omicron variant.
The US CDC highlighted the variety of symptoms of Covid that have been reported, noting that “anyone can have mild to severe symptoms” that can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
The list of symptoms listed by the CDC includes fever or chills, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body pain, headache, new loss of taste or smell. , sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, nausea or vomiting. and diarrhea.
Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr about whether countries like the US, UK, Israel and the EU were “unnecessarily panicking,” Coetzee pointed out that the omicron variant had likely spread to those countries already.
“I think you already have it out there in your country without even knowing it, so I would say at this point, definitely. Two weeks later, maybe we’ll say something different, ”she added.
Harris of the WHO said the organization did not like to see travel restrictions but understood that countries needed to take precautions based on their own epidemiological situations and current risk-based analysis of data.
The United Nations health agency said on Monday that the delta variant was still responsible for most current infections around the world and, as such, was still its biggest concern.
“More than 99% of cases worldwide are due to the delta variant and more deaths are among the unvaccinated,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. .
“I think this is our priority while we wait to learn more about [the omicron] variant. “