MUSC says Omicron is more contagious but less likely to cause severe symptoms

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) — The Medical University of South Carolina says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 now accounts for 97% of all cases sequenced there. This comes just a month after the first cases of the Omicron variant were discovered in the state.

Compared to the Delta variant, Omicron is three times more contagious, but Julie Hirschhorn of MUSC’s Molecular Pathology Lab says it’s significantly less likely to cause serious illness.

She says they’ve noticed a shift in some of the past symptoms of COVID-19.

They see a decrease in loss of smell as a symptom, and an increase in sore, scratchy throat and runny nose with Omicron symptoms.

“A lot of asymptomatic or people who think they have a cold probably have Omicron and just don’t know it or haven’t been tested,” said Bailey Glen, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine.

He says we can attribute the rapid spike in cases to the high portability of the Omicron variant. According to MUSC, the total number of COVID patients admitted at their four sites in the Charleston Peninsula on Dec. 29 was 38 patients.

On January 13, they had 134.

Glen and Hirschhorn both say they were surprised at how contagious Omicron became, which left them with more questions.

“I think the most important thing that Omicron has given us is a lot of uncertainty,” Glen said. “The fact that we have something that’s much worse in one case, much more contagious, and better in another, because it’s milder, makes the future a lot less certain about what exactly the next variant is going to do.” looks like.”

Hirschhorn added that evidence shows that being vaccinated still helps keep you out of the hospital, even if you test positive for COVID.

She also says that high-quality masks and insulation help reduce the spread.

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