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Reduced hospitalization risk, shorter stays for Omicron patients: US study

Agence France-Presse
Reduced hospitalization risk, shorter stays for Omicron patients: US study
A man is tested for COVID-19 at a free testing site in Farragut Square in downtown on January 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. According to a recent letter from the D.C. Hospital Association (DCHA) to the city's government, the strain on the District's health care system is greater now than at any time since the pandemic began.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images / AFP

WASHINGTON, United States — A preliminary US study of nearly 70,000 Covid positive people showed a substantially reduced risk of hospitalization and death from Omicron even after controlling for growing population immunity levels.

People infected with Omicron were half as likely to be hospitalized, about 75 percent less likely to need intensive care, and around 90 percent less likely to die compared to those infected with the formerly dominant Delta variant, according to the paper.

Of some 52,000 people infected with Omicron, none ended up on a ventilator, compared to 11 people from nearly 17,000 with Delta.

Hospital stays lasted for a median of 1.5 days for Omicron compared to five days for Delta, and 90 percent of Omicron patients were discharged in three or fewer days.

The analysis was conducted on data from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospital system, which serves a population of around 4.7 million people, between November 30, 2021, and January 1, 2022, when both strains were circulating widely.

The findings build on accumulating population-level research from countries including South Africa and Britain, but also on animal and human tissue-based testing, which have found Omicron replicates better in the upper airways compared to the lungs.

The new paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was carried out by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"This study controlled for important key parameters such as age, sex, prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, prior vaccination and comorbidities," CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on a briefing call Wednesday.

The results thus suggest that Omicron is "intrinsically less severe than Delta," and observed reductions in severe cases aren't only the result of more people being vaccinated and infected over time, the paper said.

In addition, while the study noted reduced vaccine efficacy against infection from Omicron, it also found substantial ongoing protection against severe outcomes.

Walensky warned that the results should not lead to complacency, since Omicron's extreme transmissibility is still stretching the United States' already over-extended health care system and its exhausted health workers.

The country is currently seeing an average of 750,000 cases a day — though that figure is soon expected to exceed a million — around 150,000 total Covid hospitalizations, and more than 1,600 daily deaths.

President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci predicted Tuesday that "Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody."

But he added that after the country emerged from its current wave, it would transition towards a future of living with the virus, with Covid vaccines moderating severe disease for the majority and effective treatments available for the most vulnerable.

COVID-19 VARIANT

OMICRON VARIANT

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 3, 2022 - 2:57pm

Follow this page for updates on the new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa. Photo courtesy of the The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

June 3, 2022 - 2:57pm

The Department of Health confirms the detection of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.5 in the Philippines.

The DOH says two individuals from the same household in Central Luzon tested posiive with the subvariant.

Both patients have unknown exposure and have no travel history.

May 13, 2022 - 1:53pm

The first cases of Omicron BA.2.12.1 COVID-19 variant have been detected in the National Capital Region and Palawan, the Department of Health says.

The first two cases in NCR have both received their booster shot and are now tagged as asymptomatic and recovered after completing home isolation.

Meanwhile, 14 tourists and 1 local tested positive in Puerto Princesa City on April 29. All cases are now asymptomatic.

May 12, 2022 - 8:43am

North Korea on Thursday confirms its first-ever case of Covid-19, with state media calling it a "severe national emergency incident" after more than two years of keeping the pandemic at bay.

The official KCNA news agency says the case was "consistent with" the virus' highly transmissible Omicron variant. — AFP

May 5, 2022 - 7:56am

Two new Omicron sub-variants are driving an increase in reported Covid cases in South Africa, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, stressing the importance of testing to monitor virus mutations and spread.

The heavily mutated and highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in southern Africa in November last year and rapidly spread globally, is now the dominant variant, accounting for almost all new cases. 

Omicron has long been known to have several sub-variants, with BA.2 by far the most dominant. 

But now the South African scientists who first identified Omicron are pointing to two other Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, "as the reason for a spike in cases" in the country, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference. — AFP

April 27, 2022 - 5:35pm

The Department of Health says it has detected the country’s first case of BA.2.12 Omicron subvariant.

The case is a Finnish woman who arrived from Finland last April 2.

According to DOH, the woman went to a university in Quezon then to Baguio to conduct seminars. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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