Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor responsible for alerting health officials about the omicron variant of COVID-19 says it presents “unusual but mild” symptoms.
Coetzee first observed patients with unusual symptoms who were otherwise healthy in mid-November.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Coetzee told The Telegraph. Coetzee has been a General Practitioner for 33 years, has her own practice, and chairs the South African Medical Association.
Coetzee noticed her patients were coming in with symptoms she said didn’t make sense at first. The diverse group of patients experienced intense fatigue, but none of her patients lost their sense of taste or smell.
“We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better,” Dr. Coetzee says.
“About two dozen of her patients have tested positive for Covid-19 with symptoms of the new variant,” the Telegraph reports. “They were mostly healthy men who turned up ‘feeling so tired.’ About half of them were unvaccinated.”
While symptoms in younger patients appear to be very mild, Coetzee is still concerned about how the new variant will affect the elderly, who have typically been the most at-risk group from COVID.
“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” she said.
Only about 6% of South Africa’s population is over the age of 65. Cases of the omicron variant have skyrocketed, but experts still say we don’t know enough about it yet.