Wednesday , May 29 2024

New Omicron strain more contagious, less deadly

The Omicron strain spreads faster than previous Covid variants but its effects are less severe and most infections have been among elderly people with underlying diseases, doctors said.

The Ministry of Health announced on Friday it has recorded nearly 3,000 infections in the past 24 hours, up 300 against the previous day and the highest figure since early April.

However, the number of patients requiring breathing support decreased to 85 cases, down 38 from the previous day.

Of the 85 were six cases relying on invasive mechanical ventilation, one case of non-invasive mechanical ventilation and the remaining patients were receiving high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen and mask oxygen.

The ministry’s Department of Medical Examination and Treatment announced that 25 Covid patients had experienced severe and critical illness recently, while 90% of those had severe underlying medical conditions.

After receiving appropriate treatment and interventions, 76% of those with severe symptoms had completely recovered.

Phan Trong Lan, director of the ministry’s Department of Preventive Medicine, said the rate of severe cases was only 1.1-1.4% even though the number of infections increased.

Results of viral gene sequencing of Covid patients in March and April showed most of them were infected with Omicron’s XBB strain.

They had upper respiratory tract symptoms such as fever, cough, and muscle fatigue.

Doctor Nguyen Thanh Phong, head of the Infections Department at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said the new strain of Omicron does not cause the same severe problems as the Delta variant two years ago.

Doctor Truong Huu Khanh, vice chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Infectious Diseases Association, said that heath system has not become overwhelmed because even though the new Omicron is more contagious it is also less severe. So even though the number of infections has increased, less people are seeking hospital care.

“The new Omicron variant is now spreading faster, but it’s not as virulent as the older strains and the following strains may also be similar,” Khanh said.

Citing global studies on the severity of new strains of the disease, Assoc. Prof. Doctor Do Van Dung, dean of the Faculty of Public Health at the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacology, also said that the severity of Covid strains did not appear to be increasing.

“Recent new strains are all of the Omicron variety and no new variants have been detected, sparking hopes that Covid-19 may have reached the end of its transformation, becoming a common respiratory disease,” Dung added.

However, many of those who have recently been reinfected with Covid-19 said their symptoms are more severe now than the first infection.

But Phong said that it is difficult to confirm that second infections are actually more likely to be worse than first time infections. This depends on each person’s immune system, the type of vaccine they’ve had and the concentration of antibodies in their body.

Dung agreed that the severity of the disease depends on many factors. For him, the strength of the disease’s symptoms had mostly to do with “the level of immunity of the body.”

For example, strong immune systems immediately resist the virus, while weak resistance will make the disease more severe, he said.

“Many people infected with Covid-19 for the first time had mild symptoms because they were vaccinated at that time but long after their last shot their resistance becomes weaker and when they get reinfected, their symptoms are more severe,” Dung said.

Vietnamese people will start an official holiday and five-day break from work beginning Saturday to celebrate the Reunification Day and May Day holidays (April 30-May 1).

The health ministry has urged all people to comply pandemic prevention measures in public places while the elderly and high-risk groups should be revaccinated against Covid.

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