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South African study suggests Omicron is less severe even for unvaccinated people

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JOHANNESBURG – Unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may be less prone to severe illness and require hospital care or die than was the case with previous variants, a South African study showed on Friday.

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The study, conducted by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in the Western Cape region, which has not yet been peer reviewed, compared around 11,600 patients from the first three waves of COVID-19 with about 5,100 from the Omicron wave that started in November.

Overall, Omicron has tended to cause less severe illness and proportionately fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous variants.

Scientists are trying to determine to what extent this is due to the higher levels of immunity brought on by vaccination or a past illness, or Omicron is inherently less villainous.

The study concluded that about a quarter of the reduced risk of serious illness with Omicron was attributable to characteristics of the virus itself.

“In the Omicron-induced wave, severe COVID-19 results were reduced primarily due to protection conferred by previous infection and / or vaccination, but inherently reduced virulence may represent a reduced risk of approximately 25% serious hospitalization or death compared to Delta, ”the study said.

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