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Covid-19: Too early to say Omicron will create mild illness only, say top South African scientists Omicron
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Covid-19: Too early to say Omicron will create mild illness only, say top South African scientists

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 02 Dec 2021, 09:13 pm

The top South African scientists have told the country's lawmakers that it is still too early to say the Omicron variant will only cause mild illness, media reports said.

At the moment, it is hard to determine the severity of Omicron-linked infections because it has so far mostly affected young people, who have a stronger immunity to fight the pathogen and get sicker after carrying the virus for a longer time, scientists gave the details of their findings so far in a presentation to the lawmakers of South Africa, Bloomberg reported.

Earlier the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said the daily number of new confirmed cases in South Africa almost doubled to 8,561 infections in the last 24 hours with Omicron being the dominant strain in the country, said the report.

Michelle Groome, head of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, told the lawmakers that "more severe complications may not present themselves for a few weeks", according to the report.

On November 25, the South African government and scientists announced that they have detected the new variant of coronavirus.

Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist at the KRISP genomics institute, opined that the disease caused by the new strain has not shown severe symptoms as many people have already contracted other variants or have been inoculated, giving them some immunity, according to the report.

"If this virus and this variant spreads very efficiently through the population, then it will still be able to find those people in the population who are unvaccinated and may be unprotected against severe disease," he said. "That's what also concerns us when we think about the continent more generally."

South Africa's vaccination rate is lower than western countries but higher than other African nations, with about a quarter of the population fully inoculated.

Despite this, Lessells expects that while the variant may evade antibodies the body's other defenses, such as T-cells, may still be effective. T-cells kill infected cells, said the Bloomberg report.

"We expect that the protection you have against severe disease is much more difficult for this variant to get around," he told the lawmakers. "We don't expect this will have any effect on the therapeutics we use."