Home Health Don’t downplay Omicron! Even mildly ill usually feels very ill

Don’t downplay Omicron! Even mildly ill usually feels very ill


The new Omikron variant apparently mainly triggers “mild gradients”. Nevertheless, it is not harmless: Because even mildly ill often feels very ill. The omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is about to replace the delta variant that has prevailed so far, gives some people hope for a mild end to the pandemic. Because unlike her predecessors, she seems to make you less ill. However, it is often underestimated how severe symptoms of the disease can be, which are officially called “mild”: Mild does not mean that it stays with a slight headache and a little cough. There are no set criteria for what constitutes a mild course. Therefore, according to the classification of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), every course that is not difficult or even critical. A Covid disease is considered severe if those affected develop severe pneumonia. The oxygen content in their blood drops to 94 to 90 percent. To compensate for the lack of oxygen, those affected breathe more – more than 30 times per minute, 12 to 20 breaths would be normal. The seriously ill must be treated with oxygen in the hospital, if possible via a tube in the nose or an oxygen mask. Courses that require treatment in the intensive care unit using mechanical ventilation or a heart-lung machine (ECMO) become critical. Those affected may develop blood poisoning, their organs may fail, and their bodies may go into shock. All other courses are considered mild. The complaints are correspondingly diverse: Anything is possible, from cold symptoms such as coughing, runny nose and feeling unwell, smell and taste disorders and gastrointestinal complaints to bouts of fever, severe headaches and body aches and breathing difficulties. Pneumonia also falls into this category, provided the oxygen content in the blood does not drop below 95 percent. Many reports on social media show that a supposedly mild infection can be very stressful.

Number of asymptomatic infected may have increased under Omicron

In addition to the mild courses, there are asymptomatic infections. Those affected feel no or almost no symptoms. A study published in the journal Jama Network Open, researchers at Peking University came to the conclusion that up to 40 percent of all people who tested positive are asymptomatic. They had analyzed 95 studies with a total of almost 30,000 people tested. However, they also rated people as asymptomatic who had no symptoms at the time of testing but developed them over the course of the test. The number of asymptomatic infected may have increased under Omicron. This is suggested by a study from South Africa published as a preprint. Of the almost 600 people examined who had been fully immunized with the vaccine from the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, 16 percent had tested positive for the novel omicron variant without symptoms. For the previously dominant Delta and Beta variants, that rate would have been 2.6. In a group of HIV patients who had received two Moderna vaccinations, 31 percent were asymptomatically infected. However, the results have not yet been checked by experts. In addition, they can only be transferred to the situation in Germany to a limited extent, since the South African population is significantly younger on average. It is not so easy to say how many people in Germany are slightly ill. Mild courses or asymptomatic infections are not automatically recorded. The RKI assumes that around 80 percent of those infected have mild to moderate symptoms. The number largely corresponds to the data from a Chinese case series with over 70,000 infected people examined, 81 percent of whom were mildly ill. Theoretically, the number of mildly ill people could be determined indirectly from the number of severely ill people. Because since July 2021, doctors have had to report to the health authorities all patients who are admitted to hospital with a Covid 19 infection. However, not all patients treated in the hospital have a severe course – people with risk factors such as being very overweight and cardiovascular diseases are sometimes treated in the clinic even without severe pneumonia. The complaints with which they are admitted to the ward are not recorded as standard.

New variant should not be played down

It has not yet been finally confirmed whether Omikron actually causes less illness than the Delta variant. Our own data on the omicron cases in Germany are incomplete, but indicate an easier course of the disease: In its weekly report of January 6th, the RKI states that it can access information on the symptoms in 45 of the detected omicron cases. These had “predominantly no or mild symptoms”, most commonly cold symptoms. A good half of those who fell ill had had a cough and runny nose, and more than a third had a sore throat. One percent of those affected were treated in the clinic. In Great Britain, too, Omikron is particularly noticeable with cold symptoms, reports the trade journal “The BMJ”. In addition to a cold and hoarseness, many affected Britons also complained of headaches and exhaustion. However, the data so far have not yet been analyzed in a scientific study. So it remains to be seen whether the assumed milder course will be confirmed. Even then, the new variant should not be downplayed: Omikron is significantly more contagious than the previously dominant Delta variant. And the more people get infected, the more people have to be treated in hospital overall.

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