The first studies on Omicron behaviour are out. It's official now that the new 'variant of concern' is more explosive than the Delta variant. The community transmission is high. Children in 0-9 years are also affected in a big way.
Moreover, a high of 54 percent (12 out of 22 confirmed cases) of Omicron infected in the UK have had 2-doses of vaccine much earlier than the 14-day period. In contrast, only 27 percent (only 6 cases) of infected individuals are unvaccinated.
At a time when the Omicron scare is sweeping the globe, including India, a red blip has been to the fore in Odisha.
As per a report of Cambridge Centre for Health Leadership and Enterprise (CCHLE), Odisha, along with Karnataka, has high infection incidences with the daily cases continuing to grow.
The CCHLE report based on the daily caseload data of the State till November 27 reveals that the trend value of new Covid-19 cases is likely to be around 300 per day in Odisha during the first fortnight of December.
Moreover, the report finds that for the first time, after nearly a month, the growth rate of daily cases in the State has turned positive.
The report has estimated the daily growth rate of cases in Odisha at 0.02 percent from negative 0.08 percent in November first week. And the R-value or the spread rate in the State on Nov 27 has been calculated at 1.2. The value crossing the level of 1 shows that the virus is spreading, though it is not alarming in nature.
The Report Value
The CCHLE report findings seem significant because the spread factor or R-value in Kerala and Maharashtra has been below 1 (0.8).
The importance of the November report is it has predicted a trend rise in the Covid-19 cases for the state of Rajasthan and has included Rajasthan in the 'Flare Up' list of states. And, coincidentally, on December 5, Rajasthan topped the Omicron list in the country with 9 cases.
The CCHLE report has estimated the spread factor or R-value for Rajasthan as of Nov 27 at 1.4, which means the virus is growing.
Incidentally, as if echoing the concerns flagged in the report, the Union Health Ministry had recently shot off a missive to Odisha pointing out a rise in the weekly caseload vis-a-vis the week ending November 26 in six - Dhenkanal, Kandhamal, Nabarangpur, Kendujhar, Anugul and Bolangir- out of 30 districts in the State.
In the above backdrop in Odisha, the South Africa Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has posted a report detailing the behaviour of the new variant of concern (VOC) Omicron in transmission, severity, breakthrough and re-infection rates.
Since South Africa has first reported the Omicron variant, this is considered as the first authentic data on the behaviour of the new 'variant of concern'.
Omicron - Explosive Than Delta?
As per the report "Tshwane District Omicron Variant Patient Profile - Early Features," the SAMRC terming the Tshwane as the global epicentre of Omicron, reported that the new VOC has an explosive rate of transmission.
The report finds that Omicron has triggered the Fourth Wave in SA's Gauteng Province. It says, "The weekly number of cases has risen exponentially over several weeks. The cases in the week Nov 21-27 were just over 8,569 but touched 41,921 by December 3. And Tshwane district reported 9,929 new cases in just 5 days. The data belongs to only the first two weeks of the Fourth Wave (very early data).
"The steep rise in numbers shows that the Omicron variant is spreading more rapidly than Delta," the study observed.
As per UK Health Security Agency, based on a logistic growth model, the country-wide analysis yields a growth rate of 141per cent per week for the S-gene Targeted Failure (SGTF) in the most recent week. The SGTF was not that high in the case with the Delta variant. The high rise shows the variant is spreading fast, the report concludes.
The big takeaway from the UK report is going for the RT-PCR TaqPath tests will go a long way in assessing the enormity of the Omicron variant in any community. The South Africa Health department has also used this testing method to detect the Omicron cases as early as possible.
How Severe Is Omicron?
Delving on the key question of whether Omicron disease outbreak has similar severity, milder or more severe than with the other variants, the big early findings are:
- In 14-days of the outbreak, the in-hospital death rate is only 6.6 percent vis-a-vis 17 percent in the last 18-months.
- While viewing this rate as a positive development, the SAMRC said a clear picture will emerge by December end.
- The study noted it as positive development when seen in the backdrop of the explosive rise in caseload.
- The average hospital stay in the last 14-days had been 2.8 days vis-a-vis 18-days stay during the last 18-months.
- Patients on oxygen support or requiring high care or on a ventilator during the first 14-days of the outbreak are very low.
Major Conclusion Of The Report
"The high proportion of COVID incidental adult patients and the increased number of SARS-CoV-2 positive admissions among children aged 0-9 may reflect higher rates of community transmission compared to previous waves (variants). However, that is not translating into higher admission rates for a primary COVID-19 diagnosis," the report concluded but with a big rider - More time is required to fully answer the questions about the severity of COVID-19 caused by the new Omicron Variant.