While it appears that the omicron variant is generally less severe than the ones that came before it, severe cases of it can actually be even worse than before.
In other words, the latest COVID-19 strain seems to cause milder symptoms when compared to other strains such as alpha and delta but, interestingly enough, when it does happen that people develop severe symptoms, they are on a totally different level of severity!
The Economist mentions that the newest COVID variant has higher transmissibility which means that it can spread faster all over the world than the previous strains.
There is some good news, however, namely the fact that omicron seems to cause less severe symptoms.
As mentioned before, that is not to say severe cases are impossible and in fact, because the new strain is so new, health officials don’t have many options when it comes to treating the cases that do develop dangerous complications.
The Economist explains that “once somebody is so sick as to require hospitalization, doctors may have a lot fewer options available for Omicron than for any of its antecedents. Previous strains could be treated with drugs called monoclonal antibodies most of the time. Omicron remains oblivious to most of these, and supplies that do affect it, [such as the] newly developed versions by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, are still limited.”
As a result, it is possible that omicron will end up straining the health systems all over the world anyway.
“The infectiousness of Omicron and consequent speed of its spread mean that all hospitals around the world are wary of an onslaught of admissions taking place at a time when many staff are still unavailable because they, as well, have been infected. All this could have a huge effect on care,” The Economist also reports.
Sure enough, a study by Columbia University researchers seems to suggest that the omicron variant is able to evade the available vaccines easier as well as antibody treatments and booster shots which makes the virus easier to spread than ever before.
Omicron has been shown to evade natural antibodies gained from previous COVID infections and is making monoclonal antibody cocktails less effective as well.
Thankfully, the latest variant appears to generally cause less severe symptoms and therefore leads to fewer hospitalizations when compared to the total number of infections.
As for the unvaccinated, they still face the highest risk this winter season by far even though everyone is a little bit more susceptible to catching COVID now that omicron is the dominant strain.