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South African scientists warn it is still early to determine true impact of Omicron variant

South African scientists warn it is still early to determine true impact of Omicron variant

Amid Omicron scare that has put several nations on alert, leading South African scientists have warned it is still too early to determine that the super mutated variant of coronavirus will only cause mild illness.

The scientists in a presentation to lawmakers on Wednesday remarked that the Omicron has so far mostly affected young people who in general has better immunity to fight off the pathogen and therefore it is still difficult to determine the true impact of the coronavirus strain.

Michelle Groome, head of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, told the lawmakers that the latest infections have occurred "mostly in the younger age groups but we are starting to see this move into the older age groups."

"We are also expecting that the more severe complications may not present themselves for a few weeks."

"The severity of disease caused by the new strain may also be masked by the fact that many people have already contracted other variants or have been inoculated, giving them some immunity," Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist at the KRISP genomics institute said.

Lessels noted that if the virus and this variant spreads very efficiently through the population, then it will still be able to find those people in the population who are unvaccinated and may be unprotected against severe disease.

Even so, Lessells expects that while the variant may evade antibodies the body's other defenses, such as T-cells, may still be effective. T-cells kill infected cells.

Omicron is now by far the dominant strain in the country.

On Nov. 25, the South African government and scientists announced that a new variant, later christened omicron by the World Health Organization, had been found in the country. That triggered an equity market sell-off and led to the imposition of travel bans on several southern African nations.

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