How The COVID-19 Omicron Variant Could End Up Being A Good Thing

Experts don't know a whole lot about Omicron, the latest variant of COVID-19, just yet, but early reports have them feeling optimistic for several reasons. For one, the symptoms appear to be milder than earlier variants, according to Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who practices in Pretoria, South Africa, where the variant was first discovered (via The Telegraph). Symptoms of Omicron are not much different from other variants, according to the World Health Organization. They include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, a runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 

Symptoms presenting as less severe is good news for obvious reasons. Early reports from hospitals are "encouraging" because while the virus is highly infectious, it doesn't appear to be as virulent, Dr. Warner Greene, director of the Center for HIV Cure Research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, told USA Today. However, milder symptoms are only part of what has many hoping for the best with Omicron.

The upside to Omicron

Researchers are noticing that hospitalizations and deaths have not increased since the discovery of the Omicron variant, as Dr. Fareed Abdullah pointed out in a study published in the South African Medical Research Council.

Omicron may spread faster than other variants of COVID-19 and, while it sounds bad, that can be a good thing. Samuel Scarpino of the Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute explained to The Atlantic that when two variants are moving through the population, the one that is more transmissible usually prevails. Dr. Warner Greene agreed with this assertion. "It would be a great thing if, in fact, Omicron crowded out Delta. If Omicron was a less pathogenic virus, that would be very good news for the human race," he told USA Today. That being said, it might take weeks to gather enough data to know everything there is to know about Omicron (via USA Today).