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

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:28 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:31 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (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 one month after the first cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the state.

Compared to the Delta variant, Omicron is three times as contagious, but Julie Hirschhorn with the Molecular Pathology Lab at MUSC says it’s significantly less likely to cause severe disease.

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

They’re seeing a decline in loss of smell as a symptom, and an increase in sore, scratchy throat, and runny nose in Omicron symptoms.

“A lot of either asymptamatic or people that think they have the cold, likely 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 transmissibility of the Omicron variant. According to MUSC, the total COVID inpatients at their four Charleston peninsula locations on December 29 was 38 patients.

As of Janaury 13, they had 134.

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

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

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

She also says higher-grade masks and isolation help reduce the spread.

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