The highly contagious Omicron variant has led to an unprecedented rise in the number of cases worldwide and the spread has begun to accelerate the Covid-19 tally even in India over the past fortnight. However, what has come as a relief is the fact that hospitalisations and deaths have not increased in the same proportion in contrast to the second wave of Coronavirus caused by the Delta variant.
A record 5.85 lakh new cases of Coronavirus were registered in the United States on January 5, however, the number of casualties in the country on the same day was 1300 which was 3 percent less than what was reported 14 days ago. Similarly, the total Covid-19 cases recorded across the world on January 5 were 18.95 but the number of deaths reported on the very same day was 6,100 which was about 9 percent less than that recorded 14 days ago.
Is Omicron really very mild?
A study on the Omicron variant in South Africa, where the variant was first reported, found that only 41.3% of patients visiting hospital emergencies actually needed to be admitted in comparison to the 68-69% during the Delta wave. There was a substantial decline also in the number of Coronavirus patients requiring Oxygen support at 17.6 percent compared to a whopping 74 percent reported during the Delta wave. Similar data was reported from the United Kingdom where patients infected with the Omicron variant had 50-70 percent less probability of getting admitted into the hospital than the probability during the Delta wave.
Dr Anurag Agrawal, who is an expert in lung disease and director of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in the national capital told the Indian Express that the severity caused by the Omicron variant appears to be 66-80 percent less than that caused by the Delta variant. He further said that since India has already seen high levels of vaccination and is likely to fare better in the 3rd wave. However, he added that the evidence reported so far does not mean that the Omicron variant is harmless as patients are still landing up in the ICUs.
Omicron cases in India
India reported close to a lakh cases on Thursday compared to a meager 6k odd cases reported 10 days earlier. However, doctors from across the country have maintained that most patients are coming with mild symptoms-moderate fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue among others. More encouraging news came from AIIMS, New Delhi where none of the patients of Coronavirus have developed pneumonia due to Covid-19 which was a recurring phenomenon during the second wave. None of the patients at AIIMS Delhi have needed Oxygen or Ventilator support solely for the Coronavirus infection.
Dr Anjan Trikha, head of the clinical management group at AIIMS trauma center told the Indian Express that he has not seen a single Covid-19 patient in the third wave with pure Covid-19 pneumonia or damaged lungs as he encountered during the second wave. However, most patients admitted at the hospital have been either partially or fully vaccinated, he added.
Similar trends have been reported from Maharashtra which has reported the maximum cases caused by the Omicron variant. Dr Lancelot Pinto who is an epidemiologist and pulmonologist at Mumbai’s P D Hinduja Hospital told the Indian Express that these are early days but so far the hospital has not seen any severe cases of Coronavirus. Dr Pinto further said that there is a very low probability of a significant drop in the oxygen saturation as the Omicron variant is found to be affecting only the upper respiratory tract.