Covid-19: Early studies give hope omicron is milder than other variantsBMJ 2021; 375 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n3144 (Published 23 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n3144
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Indeed, it is a fact that the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is showing less severe disease manifestations and hospital admissions than the previous strains.1-3 This conclusion is based on the data published from countries like England, Scotland, and South Africa. However, the Asian and Southeast Asian countries are yet to face the outbreak of this new variant.
It is well known that human biological distinctness exists among the various geographic locations. Although there are numerous and complex reasons, important ones are social (e.g., varying health-related infrastructure and medical practices), environmental (e.g., locally to regionally specific environmental risks), and genetic factors (e.g., spatial patterning of genetic variants). Under this, the disease progression and outcome also vary as per the geographical locations.4 In COVID-19 context, the Delta variant of SARS-C0V-2 showed significantly higher mortality and morbidity in Asian and Southeast Asian countries than in Western countries.5 The havoc of mucormycosis in the second wave in the Indian population is again an appropriate example of such geographic distinction, which was not experienced by the western world.6 On similar lines, how omicron will behave in Asian countries is a million-dollar question and needs close surveillance by the concerned authorities. Hence, it becomes paramount important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and strengthen the healthcare system and manpower.
Although less severity of diseases and hospital admission is associated with Omicron, widespread propagation of this information in the general population through media might have an adverse impact. It will likely introduce a careless or ‘nothing will happen’ attitude among the general population hampering the basic preventive measures such as social distancing, hand sanitization, and facial masking.
1. WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling, MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Jameel Institute, Imperial College London. Report 50: Hospitalisation risk for Omicron cases in England. Dec 2021. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-....
2. Sheikh A, Kerr S, Woolhouse M, McMenamin J, Robertson C. Severity of omicron variant of concern and vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease: national cohort with nested test negative design study in Scotland. https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/en/publications/severity-of-omicron-varian....
3. Wolter N, Jassat W, Walaza S, et al. Early assessment of the clinical severity of the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant. MedRxiv 2021. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.21.21268116v1.
4. Prohaska A, Racimo F, Schork AJ, et al. Human Disease Variation in the Light of Population Genomics. Cell. 2019 Mar 21;177(1):115-131. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.01.052.
5. Bari MS, Hossain MJ, Akhter S, Emran TB. Delta variant and black fungal invasion: A bidirectional assault might worsen the massive second/third stream of COVID-19 outbreak in South-Asia. Ethics Med Public Health. 2021 Dec;19:100722. doi: 10.1016/j.jemep.2021.100722. Epub 2021 Sep 4.
6. Aranjani JM, Manuel A, Abdul Razack HI, Mathew ST. COVID-19-associated mucormycosis: Evidence-based critical review of an emerging infection burden during the pandemic's second wave in India. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Nov 18;15(11):e0009921. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009921.
Competing interests: No competing interests