The South African doctor who first alerted the scientific community to a new SARS-CoV-2 — B.1.1.529, which the World Health Organization has dubbed "Omicron" — has described symptoms of the variant as "unusual, but mild."
What is the background?
While most Americans gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, hysteria over the new COVID-19 variant spread like wildfire.
The WHO is warning that omicron contains several genetic mutations on the virus' spike protein, worrying scientists about the variant's ability to bypass infection-blocking antibodies, and specifically, vaccines.
President Joe Biden responded to the emergence of the variant by enacting a travel ban on eight African nations. The European Union quickly followed suit. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) even enacted a state of emergency in the Empire State to respond to the omicron variant — despite the U.S. not having confirmed a single case of the new variant.
But what is the doctor saying?
Dr. Angelique Coetzee told the Telegraph she first suspected a new variant of COVID-19 was spreading when her medical practice in Pretoria saw an influx of patients with "symptoms that did not make immediate sense."
Coetzee, who also serves as the chairwoman of the the South African Medical Association, explained those symptoms included "intense fatigue" and a high pulse rate in younger patients, but not the loss of smell or taste, the hallmark symptom of COVID-19.
"We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better," Coetzee explained.
Coetzee has also explained of the new variant, "It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well. So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home."
According to the Telegraph, Coetzee made clear in a briefing to other African medical organizations that "her patients were all healthy," and that her real concern was for older people and those with co-morbidities.
"What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease," she said, the Telegraph reported.