Omicron will infect ‘just about everybody’
- Infectious disease expert and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “just about everybody” will eventually be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
- “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a “fireside chat.”
- “Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death,” he added.
- Omicron is the most transmissible variant to appear so far but seems to cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous mutations of the virus.
- Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, made at a Senate hearing Tuesday when she said “it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID.”
Omicron is less severe
- If you catch Omicron then you are less likely to become seriously ill than with previous variants.
- Studies from around the world are painting a consistent picture that Omicron is milder than the Delta variant, with a 30% to 70% lower chance of people infected ending up in hospital.
- Omicron can cause cold-level symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, and a headache, but that does not mean it will be mild for everyone and some will still be seriously ill.
- Changes to the virus seem to have made it less dangerous, but most of the reduced severity is down to immunity as a result of vaccination and previous bouts of Covid.
How severe are Omicron infections?
- So far, the data are scarce and incomplete. “There is inevitably a lag between infection and hospitalization,” says infectious-disease epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “In the meantime, policy decisions have to be made and that’s not straightforward.
- Early results suggest a glimmer of hope. Reports from South Africa have consistently noted a lower rate of hospitalization as a result of Omicron infections compared with infections caused by the Delta variant, which is currently responsible for most SARS-CoV-2 infections globally. On 14 December, the South African private health insurer Discovery Health in Johannesburg announced that hospitalization risk has been 29% lower among people infected with Omicron, compared with people infected with a previous variant.
- Omicron causes milder disease than previous variants. But researchers say it is too early to be sure, and key methodological details of that study have not yet been published.
- On 13 December, Denmark released data showing that hospitalization rates for people infected with Omicron seemed to be on a par with those for people infected with other variants. But this comparison was based on only about 3,400 cases of Omicron infection and 37 hospitalizations.
- Source: Ledford, H., 2021. How severe are Omicron infections? Nature, 600(7890), pp.577-8.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove
We’re still learning about severity as well. We do know that people with Omicron can have the full spectrum of disease, everything from asymptomatic infection, mild infection, people needing hospitalization, and people who have died from Omicron.
We do have initial reports that suggest that Omicron is less severe compared to Delta. However, if again, if we have more cases, more cases mean more hospitalizations, and if a health care system is overburdened, people will die because they won’t get the appropriate care that they need.
So, it’s early to tell whether or not Omicron is more or less severe, but we do have some initial reports that it is less severe
Omicron so contagious most Americans will get Covid, top US health officials say
- With several major mutations, the Omicron variant has spread rapidly around the globe and shattered records for new daily cases in the US. The CDC reports that the variant is now responsible for more than 98% of Covid-19 cases in the US, replacing Delta in less than a month.
- At the same time, the variant is believed to be less lethal than previous strains and there is some evidence it may quickly peak.
- However, even as Omicron sends fewer patients to the hospital as a proportion of total cases, the deluge of cases has put hospitals, schools, and businesses under strain – filling up beds, causing staff shortages, and prompting a return to remote activities.
- An average of more than 761,000 Americans a day tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, the day of the hearing, according to the New York Times. Even this tally is known to be a vast undercount because few people report the positive results of at-home rapid tests to health authorities.
- On the same day the previous year, also the peak of a winter surge, an average of 251,232 people tested positive for Covid-19.
- Even as Omicron stresses essential systems, severe illness is not inevitable, and health authorities stressed the importance of vaccination to reduce the likelihood of severe illness. The CDC is also considering a recommendation for Americans to wear N95 and KN95 masks, rather than cloth ones, if possible.
Is Everyone Eventually Going to Get the Omicron Variant?
- The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly.
- More than 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States on Jan. 10. In addition, there are predictions that 50 percent of people in Europe will contract COVID-19 in the next 2 months.
- This has left experts are wondering if everyone is going to get COVID-19 at some point.
- Experts do say that Omicron could conceivably lead to herd immunity and turn COVID-19 into a relatively benign endemic illness.
- Omicron is highly contagious, but its effects are generally less severe compared to previous variants.
Coronavirus digest: Omicron likely to infect half of Europe in 2 months
- More than half of people in Europe are on track to contract the omicron coronavirus variant in the next two months if infections continue at current rates, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.
- “At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” Hans Kluge, regional director for WHO’s European office, told a press conference.
- The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries and territories including several in Central Asia. Kluge noted that 50 of them had confirmed cases of the omicron variant.
- According to the WHO, 26 of those countries reported that over 1% of their populations were “catching COVID each week” as of January 10.
Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant: Unique features and their impact on pre-existing antibodies
- Phylogenetically SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant is closely related to the Gamma variant.
- There are a total of 46 high prevalent mutations throughout the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant.
- Twenty-three of the 46 mutations, which is more than any previously emerged variant belong to the S protein.
- Twenty-three of the 46 mutations are a markedly high number of mutations than has been previously reported for the S protein of other emerging variants.
- A significant number of mutations are at the antibody binding surface of S protein.
Omicron: a drug developer’s perspective
Since its first detection on 16 August 2021 in South Africa, Omicron has now spread to 69 countries in the world, including 42 states in the USA (outbreak.info). Carrying up to 61 nonsynonymous defining mutations, Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529 or variant 21K or BA.1, has opened our eyes to the extent to which SARS-CoV-2 can evolve.
Source: Fang “Flora” Fang and Shi, P.Y., 2021. Omicron: A Drug Developer’s Perspective: Taylor & Francis Word Template for journal articles. Emerging microbes & infections, (just-accepted), pp.1-10.
Covid-19: Early studies give hope omicron is milder than other variants
Optimism is growing that the increasingly dominant omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 may produce less severe disease than previous strains, after the findings of three early studies into the outcome of infection with the variant.
Researchers in England, Scotland, and South Africa have found the risk of admission to hospital to be between 15% and 80% lower with omicron than the delta variant.
The findings have not been peer-reviewed, and all three studies accept limitations in the research, but the unanimity of the findings has been welcomed. “In my view, there is no solid reason to favor a more optimistic outcome of omicron in the UK than was feared,” said James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford.
Source: Christie, B., 2021. Covid-19: Early studies give hope omicron is milder than other variants.
Covid-19: Omicron is causing more infections but fewer hospital admissions than delta, South African data show
Data from South Africa’s largest private health insurer suggest that omicron is spreading faster than any previous coronavirus variant and showing signs of immune escape, with both vaccinated and previously infected people more at risk than in previous waves.
More than 90% of newly sequenced infections in South Africa now involve the omicron variant, and as it displaced delta, vaccine effectiveness dipped, revealed data presented by the insurer Discovery Health at a 14 December briefing
Source: Dyer, O., 2021. Covid-19: Omicron is causing more infections but fewer hospital admissions than delta, South African data show.
Is it more transmissible than the delta variant?
Early indications are that omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, especially as it has overtaken delta as the predominant variant in South Africa, and there is evidence indicating that it comes with an increased risk of reinfection.
The UK’s pandemic modeling group SPI-M-O has warned that although data from South Africa are subject to caveats there is a strong indication that omicron has a “significant transmission advantage, significant immune escape, or both, or some other fitness advantage over the predominant variant (delta).”
It said that the current evidence presents a “compelling case for omicron to cause a wave of infection in the UK.