South African Doctor Who First Detected Omicron Variant Says Symptoms Are Mild

Writer: Lois

Photo: South African Medical Association (SAMA)

Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first notified authorities of the recent COVID-19 Omicron variant, or B.1.1.529 variant, has reported its symptoms as unusual but mild.

Dr Coetzee, who has 33 years of experience as a general practitioner (GP) and chairs the South African Medical Association (SAMA), told The Telegraph that she first noticed the symptoms among patients at her private doctor’s office in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities.

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” she said. 

“We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better.”

Her patients were young people of different ethnic backgrounds and ages. They reported exhaustive fatigue, but none lost their sense of smell or taste.

According to the South African GP, around 24 of her patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 have symptoms of the Omicron variant. She said they were primarily healthy men who reported a feeling of heavy tiredness. Around half were vaccinated, and the other half were unvaccinated.

On November 18, after four family members came in with intense fatigue and tested positive for COVID-19, Dr Coetzee decided to inform the country’s vaccine advisory committee.

“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” said Dr Coetzee.

Around six per cent of South Africa’s population are over the age of 65.

The Omicron variant has also been found in Britain, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Belgium. In response, many nations, including Israel, Britain, the United States and Japan, have enforced travel bans on the regions of South Africa. These bans have stranded and angered some South Africans, who say they are being punished for their outstanding research institutions and transparency regarding their findings.

South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla has stated there is no need to panic over the new variant.

“[This new variant] is no new territory for us. . .We are now more than 20 months experienced in terms of Covid-19, various variants and waves,” he said at a news briefing.

Dr Coetzee has also said the global reaction to this new variant is too rushed.

“I would understand if it was two weeks later and we know much more about this viral infection that is going around, or this mutation, but for now, it is like a storm in a teacup,” she told BBC News.

“We have only become aware of this viral mutation, or the new strain we are seeing, last week.”

Meanwhile, Pfizer recently sent an email to FOX Business, claiming it could improve its current COVID-19 vaccine within 100 days to combat the Omicron variant if it proved resistant to the current vaccine:

“As always, we will continue to follow the science as we examine the best approaches to protecting people against COVID-19. In the event that vaccine-escape variant emerges, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.”

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