“Light symptoms” and unusual: this is what Angelique Coetzee, president of the Association of South African Doctors, who has treated around thirty Covid patients infected with the new Omicron variant.
The health professional says she has so far only been faced with convalescence without hospitalization.
“A throat that itches”
“What brought them to my practice” in Pretoria, “was extreme fatigue,” she said. The majority were men under the age of 40. Just under half were vaccinated.
Besides fatigue, they suffered from muscle aches, a dry cough or “a itchy throat,” she said. Only a few had a low fever.
Dr Coetzee alerted health authorities on November 18 to this “clinical picture not corresponding to Delta” – the hitherto dominant variant in South Africa. They were not surprised, the phenomenon was already being studied.
South African researchers announced on November 25 that they had identified the B.1.1.529 variant, called Omicron the next day by the World Health Organization (WHO), with multiple mutations and probably very transmissible. The news sparked panic, with many countries deciding within hours to ban travelers from southern Africa on their territory.
Dr Coetzee recalls that very little is known about the dangerousness of this variant, which the WHO has however qualified as “worrying”.
I’m not saying that there won’t be serious illnesses
“I’m not saying that there won’t be serious illnesses” but “for now, even the patients we have seen who were not vaccinated have mild symptoms,” she said.
“I am convinced that a lot of people in Europe have this virus, but it was not detected very much because we were on the lookout for symptoms of the Delta”, further advances the doctor.
Several countries have reported cases of Omicron, notably in Belgium, Italy, Great Britain or Germany.
Almost three quarters of the recently reported Covid cases in South Africa are due to the Omicron variant. The figures remain low, however, around 3,000 new positive cases in recent days.