South African doctor who warned about Omicron considers reaction to it overblown

South African doctor who warned about Omicron considers reaction to it overblown
South African doctor who warned about Omicron considers reaction to it overblown
14 December 2021, 14:56Science
Angelica Coetzee, general practitioner and chairman of the South African Medical Association, was the person who first reported the new strain. Coetzee believes that excessive concerns about the omicron are unnecessary, and he can rather help us.

Dr. Coetzee wrote a column for the Daily Mail. The reason for this was the panic that reigns over the new strain in the world. It was Coetzee, as chair of the South African Medical Association, who announced that the coronavirus had mutated when the number of covid patients with strange symptoms seemed suspicious to her. Despite the rapid growth of cases and, most likely, the high transmissibility of the omicron, Dr. Coetzee believes that the emergence of a new strain is rather a good sign. Here's what she writes in her column.

“It is enough to look at the picture in South Africa, where the world's first known cases of omicron were detected, to understand that the response to it is completely out of proportion to the risks associated with this option. I know this better than anyone else, because I am the doctor who first raised the alarm about the omicron back in November.

This variant appears to have been circulating in South Africa for some time, having previously been identified in Botswana. It was my responsibility - both as a general practitioner and as chairman of the South African Medical Association - to report the issue. I do not regret doing this, however I was amazed at how the world reacted. The UK and several other European countries have imposed severe restrictions on flights to southern African countries, and tightened rules on masks and isolation at home.

Even then, I said that we do not know enough about the omicron to impose such a policy. Now that we have managed to observe the new strain for four weeks, it seems even stranger to me. All this time I have been working with patients with omicron and I think I can say with confidence that I know more than anyone else about the effect it has.

Доктор Анжелика Кутзее

As a general practitioner for over 33 years, I am one of the first patients to go to. We clinicians deal with real people day in and day out, not with statistical predictions, and I can assure you that the symptoms of omicron patients are very, very mild compared to those we see with a much more dangerous delta option. I have had quite a few patients with the omicron who had previously suffered the delta variant, and they all considered themselves lucky because the second time they had only the omicron. For example, my very first omicron patient, a young man, thought he was simply overheated in the sun. Common symptoms in these patients are muscle pain, headache, and slight fatigue. These symptoms do not get worse over time and usually go away completely after five days.

In the part of South Africa where I work, few patients have been admitted to the Omicron hospital, most of them being treated at home using anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and low doses of cortisone. Also keep in mind that most of those who contract omicron in South Africa are unvaccinated: only 26% of South Africans are fully vaccinated. Of course, this is not an argument against vaccination - it is extremely important. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to know that even vulnerable people struggle with this option much more easily than with the "delta". Where vaccination rates are much higher, there is even less cause for concern.

Of course, every death is a tragedy. But will there be many deaths? Our experience in South Africa suggests otherwise. While the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is rising sharply in more than half of our nine provinces, deaths are increasing at a much slower rate, as is the average length of hospital stay.

Our local laboratories do not carry out genetic sequencing after every death, so we do not know how many covid deaths are caused by the omicron and how many by other variants. But yesterday, South Africa only reported 11 covid-related deaths. This is much less than the 578 deaths per week that were reported at the peak of the delta. There is a possibility that the omicron can be of great help to us - which is absolutely not the case with the delta variant.

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