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The omicron variant may present mild COVID symptoms, expert says

There’s little to know about the omicron COVID-19 variant so far

Passengers check in at the Lufthansa counter at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa
Passengers check in at the Lufthansa counter at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday Nov. 29, 2021.
Jerome Delay, Associated Press

The newly discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus may only present mild symptoms to those who are infected, according to Dr. Francis Collins, the director for the National Institutes of Health.

What is the omicron variant?

The World Health Organization warned of a new COVID-19 variant Friday, calling it a variant of concern and giving it the Greek alphabet letter “omicron,” as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • The variant was originally discovered in Botswana, where there were four reported cases among fully vaccinated people, per The Associated Press.
  • Some cases were found in Hong Kong travelers from South Africa.

The emergence of this new variant led to dipping markets, increased travel restrictions and widespread fear about what the COVID-19 variant could present to us.

Does the omicron variant have mild symptoms? Is omicron more severe?

Collins said on CNN over the weekend that there is “no data so far to suggest” that the omicron variant causes more severe disease compared to other coronavirus variants.

  • “There’s even a bit of a report from South Africa that maybe people with this are milder than usual, but they’re mostly young people who have mild illness anyway,” Collins said.

Collins also said on “Fox News Sunday” that South Africa is gathering as much information as possible to assess the dangers of the variant.

  • We do know that this is a variant that has a lot of mutations, like 50 of them and more than 30 of those in the spike protein, which is the part of the virus that attaches to your human cells if you get infected, that is a new record in terms of the number of mutations,” he said. “It does make you worry, therefore, that it’s a sufficiently different virus, that it might not respond as well to protection from the vaccines. But we don’t know that.”
  • “We can certainly see that in South Africa and a few neighboring countries in south part of Africa, this does seem to be spreading quite rapidly, so the inference would be there that it’s particularly contagious,” he added. “We don’t know about its severity, trying to collect that data as quickly as possible.”