As the jaws of lockdowns and travel bans descend on the world, the South African doctor who first spotted the omicron variant of the coronavirus is using the word “mild” to describe it.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee of Pretoria said that after weeks of not seeing patients with COVID-19 symptoms, she noticed something that aroused her concern.
“I said these different symptoms can’t be delta, they are very similar to beta or it must be a new strain,” she said Monday, according to Bloomberg.
“I don’t think it will blow over but I think it will be a mild disease, hopefully. For now, we are confident we can handle it,” Coetzee said.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, she said, “What we are seeing clinically in South Africa — and remember I’m at the epicenter of this where I’m practicing — is extremely mild, for us [these are] mild cases. We haven’t admitted anyone. I’ve spoken to other colleagues of mine and they give the same picture.”
As more patients with similar symptoms came to her practice, she said she decided there was “something else going on. We have seen a lot of delta patients during the third wave. And this doesn’t fit in the clinical picture.”
“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,” Coetzee said.
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) November 29, 2021
“It’s all speculation at this stage. It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild,” she said.
“Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No. We are concerned and we watch what’s happening. But for now, we’re saying, ‘OK: there’s a whole hype out there. [We’re] not sure why.'”
One expert noted there was more to learn.
“The big issue and the big uncertainty is how severe illness will be with this new variant. There are signs from South Africa that, maybe, the illness is less severe than with delta but we don’t really know if that is the case, and if it is, why that’s happening,” Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia in England, told CNBC on Monday.
“Maybe that’s because it’s reinfecting people who have already got some degree of immunity,” he said. “If it generally is causing mild disease and if, as I suspect, the booster campaign will go a long way to still reduce hospitalizations and deaths, hopefully, we won’t have to live under restrictions again.”
“Politicians and the media don’t help us. Our leaders want to be perceived as acting ahead of the risk, which is why the travel advisories are being put in place even though this variant has already spread into Europe and likely on into the United States, so travel restrictions now will do little,” Siegel wrote.
“Media hyperbole inflames our fears and political posturing is transparently self-serving and fails to calm us,” he said. “Only science can reassure, providing context and diagnostic, preventive, and treatment tools against the new variant.
“Our leaders must provide constant timely support for these efforts, not pound the political drum to control us.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.