Dr Angelique Coetzee, a South African physician and president of the South African Medical Association who was one of the first to suspect the emergence of a different viral variant there, said she noticed seven patients in his clinic who presented with symptoms different from those commonly seen. with delta.
“What brought them to the surgery was this extreme fatigue,” she told AFP, adding that the patients had mild muscle pain, a “scratching throat” and a dry cough. .
Dr Coetzee, who also sits on the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said she alerted health officials to a “clinical picture that does not match the delta” on November 18 when seven patients were presented with different symptoms.
“The symptoms at this stage were very much related to a normal viral infection. And because we haven’t seen Covid-19 in the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test, ”she told Reuters.
“We saw a lot of delta patients during the third wave. And it does not correspond to the clinical picture. Most of them have very, very mild symptoms and none of them have so far admitted patients for surgery, ”she said. .
Dr Coetzee said that unlike delta, so far patients have not reported loss of smell or taste and that there has been no major drop in oxygen levels associated with the new variant. All patients were eligible to be treated “conservatively” at home, she said.
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At a briefing organized by the South African Department of Health on Monday, GP Dr Unben Pillay listed symptoms reported by omicron patients. He said: “We see patients presenting with a dry cough, fever, night sweats and a lot of body pain. People who have been vaccinated tend to do much better.
He added that there had been a “very large increase” in cases over the past 10 days.
“Higher transmissibility is likely. We will get more cases quickly, we are already seeing the first evidence, ”epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim said during the briefing.
A report from an Indian newspaper said health officials in Delhi had spoken to their South African counterparts about the new variant and learned that affected areas had a very low hospitalization rate linked to omicron. So far, worldwide, no deaths have been reported in connection with this new variant.
“So far it has only manifested as a mild illness with extreme fatigue and throat irritation being the predominant symptoms,” Indian sources told the India express.
Thousands of cases of omicron have been reported worldwide, with 38 countries reporting cases of the variant. The UK now has 150, with confirmed omicron infections in Scotland, Nottingham, Essex, Westminster and Wales.
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Dr Coetzee told the BBC on Sunday Spectacle d’Andrew Marr that the UK was “unnecessarily panicking” after the first two people were found infected with the new variant in England.
“I think you already have it out there in your country and you don’t know it, and I would say, yes at this point, I would definitely say,” she said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified omicron as a “variant of concern,” but urged caution, saying it will take another two weeks to determine how transmissible and dangerous the variant really is.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier on Friday reiterated his advice on blanket travel bans except for countries whose health systems are unable to withstand a surge in infections.
“It is much better to prepare your country, your health system for possible incoming cases, because we can be pretty sure that this variant of Omicron will spread,” he said.
He added: “Let’s not be put off just yet, let’s first get as much information as possible to do the right risk assessment based on the information we have, and then move on.
“Let’s not be completely worried or confused by individual information which is all individually important, but which needs to be put together in order to assess together. “
On Sunday, the health body said in a statement: “There is currently no information to suggest that the symptoms associated with omicron are any different from those of other variants.”
The B.1.1.529 variant was detected and announced by the South African National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on November 25.
Following the discovery of the new variant, countries around the world have tightened border restrictions and banned air travel from South Africa. In England, mask warrants are back on public transport and in shops to slow the spread of the virus.