Omicron vs Delta: What We Now Know About COVID-19 Disease

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Omicron is now the dominant variant of the coronavirus in the United States, accounting for about three-quarters of COVID-19 cases in the week that ended Saturday, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It happened more suddenly than the United States had expected, but scientists said it was inevitable given omicron’s extreme level of contagiousness and its ability to bypass people’s immunity – vaccines and past illnesses with COVID-19. (Booster doses reload much of that protection.)

Omicron is also believed to have a rapid incubation period, or a time interval between someone exposed to the virus and then showing symptoms. As The Atlantic reported, the Delta has already made people contagious faster, but “omicron’s shorter incubation period means there is less time to locate an infection before it becomes infectious “. It means, a negative home COVID-19 test Tuesday does not necessarily mean a negative test on Thursday.

Data from hospitalization rates from other countries suggests that omicron may cause less severe illness (or at least not more severe illness) compared to earlier variants. However, health experts are pleading that people don’t view omicron as gentle.

“Surely we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a December 14 briefing. “Even if omicron causes less severe disease, the large number of cases could again overwhelm unprepared health systems.” As the United States steps up its campaign for COVID-19 recalls, 8.1% of people in low-income countries have received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

As COVID-19 cases increase in the United States, here’s what we now know about how the omicron variant stacks up against the delta.

Is omicron sweeter than delta? How effective are omicron vaccines?

A large preliminary study from South Africa suggested that omicron causes less severe disease in adults (but not children). Another preliminary study in Hong Kong found that omicron replicates less efficiently in the lungs, which could lead to less severe disease. But, the authors note, the overall threat from omicron is “probably very significant” given how contagious and immune to the immune system omicron is.

In an interview with NBC on Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci said that although information from South Africa shows there may be “less oxygen demand” when people are sick with COVID-19 from the omicron variant, that doesn’t mean it’s less severe virus. Because there are many factors involved, including who is currently ill (a lot of young people).

“When you have so many infections, even if they’re less severe, it overcomes that slight to moderate decrease in severity,” Fauci told NBC. If large numbers of people fall ill, many of them will inevitably need hospital care, flooding the health systems needed to treat not only patients with COVID-19, but those seeking treatment as well. for other conditions which can become fatal without intervention.

Delta decreased some vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection (and protection against natural immunity) because it mutated from the original virus. Omicron further reduced the effectiveness of vaccines, resulting in many groundbreaking cases and re-infections with COVID-19. The lowered protection is also expected to overwhelm and decrease the effectiveness of existing treatments, including monoclonal antibodies. However, COVID-19 vaccines have remained effective in protecting against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Health officials are encourage booster injections for increased response and protection of antibodies another dose will provide.

Fauci told NBC that while there is “no doubt” that there will be breakthrough COVID-19 infections, there is a “difference between a vaccinated and boosted person who has an infection, and someone one who has an infection that has never been vaccinated – a major difference with considering the risk of severity.

Unvaccinated people remain particularly vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19, regardless of the variant. In October, unvaccinated people were 14 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people, according to CDC information.

Some mutations in the spike protein of omicron are similar to those found in the delta variant, according to the Republic of South Africa Department of Health, as well as mutations found in the alpha, gamma and beta variants – all classified as variants of concern by the WHO.

Omicron has more mutations on its spike protein than the delta variant, but scientists are working to figure out what that means.

“What all of these changes in the aggregate are going to do for the things that matter to this virus, we don’t really know yet,” Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University, told CNN in late November.

Read more: Do you think you are “fully vaccinated?” Omicron May Change CDC Definition

What is a mutation or a variant?

The coronavirus enters our cells using its “crown,” or layer of protein spikes, and then copies itself into our bodies, where there are inevitably errors or mutations, as Yale Medicine explains. Sometimes these mutations in the virus are harmless, but other times – such as the delta and omicron variants – they make it much easier for the virus to spread from person to person and infect more people.

The more people who are unvaccinated or have no immunity to COVID-19, the more likely the coronavirus is to spread and form into variants.

“I think what you see is just the manifestation of what we talked about,” Fauci told NBC in November. “Why is it so important that people get vaccinated and that those who are fully vaccinated get a boost.”

Aside from the reluctance to vaccinate, many people in countries outside of the United States do not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. According to Our World in Data, 7.3% of people in low-income countries have received a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“The emergence of the omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech.

At a recent press briefing, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the United States has shipped 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for donation, a milestone , he said, in the White House’s pledge to donate 1.2 billion doses of COVID-19. 19 vaccine to other countries.

What are the symptoms of omicron compared to delta?

In a December 10 report from the CDC, details of 43 cases of omicron (some of the first in the United States) were revealed. Regarding symptoms, most people (89%) reported a cough, 65% were tired, and 59% were congested or had a runny nose. Only 8% of the 43 people said they had lost their sense of smell or taste, which affected many people who had previously been infected with COVID-19, caused by other variants. Fourteen percent of people in the report previously had COVID-19.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, a South African doctor who helped discover the omicron, told the BBC in late November that so far patients she has seen with the omicron variant have “extremely mild cases” of COVID-19. Those symptoms included fatigue, headaches and a sore throat, she said, not the telltale loss of smell or cough associated with previous COVID-19 infections.

However, the delta variant may have slightly changed the way COVID-19 presents itself. Cough and loss of smell are also less common symptoms of COVID-19 caused by the delta variant compared to earlier variants, according to the Baton Rouge General, a Mayo Clinic network. Cold symptoms like headaches and runny nose are now more common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the UK ZOE COVID study.

How do you test for omicron?

A COVID-19 test won’t tell you which variant you have. In order for scientists to determine if it is omicron or another variant of the coronavirus, the CDC is using genomic sequencing. According to Walensky, the director of the CDC, the United States now tests 80,000 positive COVID-19 samples per week (about one in seven positive tests), up from 8,000 per week earlier this year.

Fortunately, the omicron variant is easily detected by PCR tests, according to Fauci, which can then be confirmed by labs that use genomic sequencing.

Read more: Free Home COVID Test Kits: Here’s How & When You’ll Get Your Own

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a health problem or health goals.


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