Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief White House medical adviser, said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant of the Chinese coronavirus, which has been identified in several states, “might even be less severe” than the Delta variant, which is already widespread.
While he said the variant is “clearly highly transmissible,” the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) head told AFP that it is “almost certainly is not more severe than Delta.”
“There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe, because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations seems to be less than with Delta,” Fauci said, although he predicted it would take “another couple of weeks at least in South Africa” to look at the data, as the populations “being followed skewed young, and were less likely to become hospitalized,” according to AFP.
“As we get more infections throughout the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what’s the level of severity,” he said, adding that he does not believe the “worst case scenario” is “going to come about,” although he added that “you never know.”
“The worst case scenario is that it is not only highly transmissible, but it also causes severe disease and then you have another wave of infections that are not necessarily blunted by the vaccine or by people’s prior infections,” he said.
During last week’s press conference, Fauci admitted that there were many unknowns associated with the Omicron variant.
“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross-protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the Omicron variant,” he said at the time.
Notably, the South African doctor who identified the variant said it appeared to be “very mild,” starting in a 33-year-old male patient who experienced fatigue, body aches, a headache, and scratchy throat.
“What we are seeing clinically in South Africa — and remember I’m at the epicenter of this where I’m practicing — is extremely mild, for us [these are] mild cases,”Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC.
“We haven’t admitted anyone, I’ve spoken to other colleagues of mine and they give the same picture,” she said at the time.
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