The South African doctor who first reported the new COVID-19 variant known as “omicron” said that she is seeing symptoms that are “unusual but mild” in most patients, Fox News reports.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee noticed the new mutation around Nov. 18 in South Africa, and quickly began to study it.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Coetzee said.
“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well,” Coetzee went on. “So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the 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.”
Roughly two dozen of Coetzee’s patients seemed to have the different symptoms, which led to World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Friday designating it the new omicron variant of COVID-19, and listing it as a Variant of Concern (VOC).
When officials studied the new variant, they found that it had at least 10 different mutations, an astonishing number by scientific measure. For comparison, the delta variant only had two mutations, and beta had three mutations.
Scientists are worried that the number of mutations may make the variant resistant to current vaccines and treatments, but the seeming mildness of the variant may cancel out some of these effects, if they do occur.
Coetzee also reported one “interesting case” of a six-year-old with a fever and very rapid pulse. According to U.S. News, South Africa is only around 35% vaccinated, so it was not immediately clear how the variant will impact areas where most people are vaccinated, like in various European countries or the United States.
Unvaxxed elderly risk
That being said, the risks presented by omicron could still be considerable for older, unvaccinated people.
“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,” Coetzee warned.
Tulio de Oliveira, the director of South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, criticized travel restrictions the U.S. and Europe have placed on the nation.
“The world should provide support to South Africa and Africa and not discriminate or isolate it!” Oliveira tweeted. “By protecting and supporting it, we will protect the world!”