“Omicron is said to be like a cold. Why the alarmism?”, “If the course is milder, so like a cold, then we could cross Omikron like in South Africa”, “Who’s afraid of Omikron? – Nobody!”
Such and similar statements can currently be found in abundance on social media. The Corona Omikron variant is described as harmless. As a simple cold virus, infection is not a problem.
It’s wrong. Whether unvaccinated, cured, fully vaccinated or strengthened – an infection with the coronavirus should always not be underestimated.
Severity of illness with Omikron: Mild does not mean harmless
First, it should be noted that data from South Africa, Great Britain, Denmark and the United States actually suggest that disease severity is reduced with Omikron. This means that infected people need to be treated less often in hospital. Omikron thus ensures milder disease course than the predecessor of the Delta viral variant. That’s the good news.
Drosten on the Omikron wave: “We have this choice of vaccines in Germany”
Charité virologist Christian Drosten specifies that the vaccination will probably have to be readjusted. © Reuters
But what does a mild course of the disease really mean? This expression suggests that “it’s something positive, like mild temperatures”, said Melanie Brinkmann, virologist at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig, on Thursday evening on the ZDF program “maybrit illner”. Sweet does not necessarily mean harmless. A study from the University Hospital of Hamburg-Eppendorf, for example, had shown that even mild to moderate Covid 19 disease can impair the functions of the heart, lungs and kidneys in the medium term. “It’s still a virus, which can make you very sick,” Brinkmann said.
For the unvaccinated, Omikron is almost as dangerous as Delta
In addition, the severity of omicron disease depends on immunity. Carsten Watzl, general secretary of the German Society for Immunology, referred to data from Britain in early January. These clearly show that Omikron is 60-70% less harmful to vaccinated people than Delta. Although they can be infected with the virus variant because it can partially bypass the built-up immune response, they remain well protected against severe disease progression. “For unvaccinated people, however, Omicron is almost as dangerous as Delta (only about 20% less harmful),” Watzl wrote. Twitter.
This means that Omikron is likely to become a problem, especially for those who have not been vaccinated. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) currently classifies the risk of unvaccinated people becoming infected with the corona virus as “very high”. Around a quarter of Germans have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19, i.e. around 20.9 million people. “We have too many unvaccinated people in Germany, especially those over 60,” criticized Christian Drosten, director of the Berlin Charité Institute of Virology, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk at the end of December. “And of course they are in real danger.”
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Booster vaccinations are in full swing in Germany. Will vaccinations soon be required every three months? © dpa
This vaccination gap also makes it difficult to transfer international disease severity data from Omikron to Germany. Because in countries like Great Britain and the United States, the vaccination campaign has already advanced. This means that more people have already acquired protection against the coronavirus.
The long Covid risk cannot be assessed
Virologist Brinkmann also speaks of “many, many question marks” that exist about Omikron. For one thing, it’s unclear how people at risk, like the immunocompromised, and children – especially those under five who haven’t yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 – react to an infection. by the virus variant. The long-term consequences of a corona infection, better known as long covid or post-covid syndrome, are also still largely unexplored. Does Omikron more often cause symptoms that persist for months after the infection has cleared? If so, what are they, how strong are they, and how long do they last?
There are still no answers to these questions. The exact extent or consequences of an Omicron infection cannot yet be accurately assessed.
It is therefore not a good idea to behave negligently and knowingly risk an infection with the Omicron variant. Although an infection can certainly provide immunity. Because the human immune system reacts to each contact with the coronavirus by forming antibodies which provide temporary protection against reinfection. The level of protection required to prevent re-infection is another question mark in Omicron’s puzzle. Especially since immune responses may be different in each person who has recovered.
Infections strain the healthcare system
Besides the individual risk of becoming seriously ill and developing long-term effects, Omikron infections can also cause harm to society.
“Even if Omikron’s infections are generally milder: due to the large number of infections, we unfortunately have to be prepared for the fact that the number of hospitalizations and deaths will increase again,” said RKI boss Lothar Wieler Friday during the federal press conference. in Berlin. what does he mean with that? Since Omicron is significantly more contagious than Delta, many people will also inadvertently contract the virus variant. Not everyone will be infected without symptoms; there will also be severe courses that will need to be treated in the hospital. This means an additional burden for clinics.
Remedies for Omikron: avoiding vaccinations and infections
“We are expecting many omicron patients soon, which will require more effort in hospitals,” said Susanne Johna, president of the Marburger Bund medical association, a few days ago in an RND interview. “They need to be isolated, some need oxygen and staff need to put on protective clothing. There is a considerable additional logistical effort.
In its statements, the federal government’s expert council warns of another worst-case scenario: the omicron wave could paralyze critical infrastructure such as hospitals or emergency services because many employees are infected and must isolate themselves. the same time. This exceptional situation occurred in Great Britain, for example.
Every citizen can help to ensure that clinics are not unnecessarily overloaded. On the one hand by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and thus protecting yourself from serious illnesses, and on the other hand by avoiding infections. This means: observing the AHA+L rule (distance, hygiene, daily life with mask and ventilation), reducing contact, observing the distance rules and staying at home with the typical corona symptoms. “Each infection that we prevent helps to cope with the wave and also to relieve the health system,” said RKI boss Wieler.