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Updated on: Tuesday, December 07, 2021, 06:16 PM IST

Is Omicron variant of COVID-19 milder than Delta? Check out what experts say

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: A pedestrian walks past cars lined up at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center on December 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. New requirements began today for inbound U.S. travelers to provide documentation of a negative Covid test result one day before departure in response to the omicron variant.  | Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: A pedestrian walks past cars lined up at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center on December 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. New requirements began today for inbound U.S. travelers to provide documentation of a negative Covid test result one day before departure in response to the omicron variant. | Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

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The new Omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected in nearly 40 countries but no death has yet been reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. Meanwhile, experts are divided over the infectiousness of the new variant. There are some scientists who have said that the Omicron variant is infectious than the Delta variant, whereas some are of the opinion that it is milder.

Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School, said: "It's still early days, but increasingly, data is starting to trickle in, suggesting that Omicron is likely to outcompete Delta in many, if not all, places." "Certainly, it's potentially alarming," he added.

Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, said it still early to say whether Omicron will replace Delta or not.

"Especially here in the U.S., where we're seeing significant surges in delta, whether Omicron's going to replace it I think we'll know in about two weeks," he said.

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the COVID-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in England, said he believes that the Omicron variant is now spreading faster than Delta and will take over as the UK's dominant variant "within a matter of weeks", BBC reported.

It is too soon to assume Omicron is milder than Delta, the variant is currently dominant in the UK, he added. He further said that even if only a small number of people get seriously ill with Omicron, it could still cause problems.

Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, said the virus is spreading extraordinarily fast.

"If you look at the slopes of this wave that we're in at the moment, it's a much steeper slope than the first three waves that South Africa experienced. This indicates that it's spreading fast and it may therefore be a very transmissible virus, which is what is being predicted."

But Hanekom, who is also co-chair the South African COVID-19 Variants Research Consortium, said South Africa had such low numbers of delta cases when omicron emerged, "I don't think we can say" it out-competed Delta.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Association, said patients she has examined so far have been exhibiting "milder" symptoms than those affected by more prevalent Delta variant.

Fatigue, body aches and pains are some of the symptoms of those infected with Omicron, she said. Further detailing the symptoms, the physician said some patients infected with Omicron variant developed quite severe headaches and tiredness but none of them mentioned the loss of smell/taste or severely blocked of the nose or increase in body temperature, that was seen in patients affected by strains of COVID-19.

"So, this is what we say. It is milder than the Delta variant at the primary healthcare level. At the hospital level, that picture might change but these are very early days as there is not a lot of admissions yet at the hospitals," Dr Coetzee said while speaking to news agency ANI.

(With AP inputs)

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Published on: Tuesday, December 07, 2021, 06:16 PM IST
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