Story at a glance

  • The World Health Organization announced omicron as a new variant of concern, first identified in South Africa.
  • Doctors from the region are reporting that patients with omicron have milder symptoms than those of the earlier delta variant.
  • One South African doctor said none of her patients that were sick with the omicron variant reported a loss of smell or taste and none experienced major drops in oxygen levels.

As omicron was announced as a new variant of concern, details about what it’s like to become sick with the new COVID-19 variant are emerging.

Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that she began having patients reporting milder symptoms different to those of the delta variant, like extreme fatigue and body aches.

"Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries. We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home," said Coetzee to Reuters. 

In her experience, Coetzee reported that most of her patients that caught the omicron strain of COVID-19 were under the age of 40 and almost half were unvaccinated.


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She also said that none of her omicron patients reported a loss in smell or taste, a significant difference from prior strains of COVID-19. None of her patients experienced major drops in oxygen levels either.

"The most predominant clinical complaint is severe fatigue for one or two days. With them, the headache and the body aches and pain," said Coetzee.

Initial reports on omicron mark a significant departure in comparison to the last major variant of concern, the delta variant. First identified in India, the delta variant is considered 2x as contagious as prior COVID-19 strains and causes more severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s not yet known if the transmissibility of omicron is higher than previous strains of COVID-19 and scientists are still working to understand how the current slate of COVID-19 vaccines can protect against omicron. 

The CDC announced on Friday that the U.S. has no reported cases of the omicron strain, while new cases were confirmed in the U.K., Germany and Italy, according to the Associated Press. 


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Published on Nov 29, 2021