New variant spreading rapidly in South Africa!

Another day, another variant. Viruses mutate often. Many times, the variant fades away because it cannot sustain itself. Other times, many people become infected, and the virus lives to see another day.

India was one of the first countries to feel the effects of the Delta variant. The death toll increased from under 50/day to over 35,000/day within a few weeks. With no vaccines available, India used antiviral medicines to conquer the virus. Within five weeks, the death count from COVID-19 was under 100/day.

We were alerted this past week about a new variant, the Omicron variant, from South Africa. Everyone is jumping through hoops to address the potential effects of this coronavirus variant.
Countries are shutting their doors for passengers from South Africa. Vaccine manufacturers are gearing up to make modifications to prevent the spread of Omicron. Headlines generators are telling the world to standby for the worst possible scenario.

The Truth? Do we ever know the ramifications of a new variant within the first few days of discovery? No! It takes time to ascertain if a viral variant poses a real threat or not. The Omicron variant was first detected less than 20 days ago in Botswana, S. Africa.

Symptoms were like earlier COVID-19 variants, but just a little different. Different enough that doctors were not sure it was coronavirus. The symptoms were mild and affected many people of different ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. Intense fatigue was the most common symptom.
Healthy people suddenly felt tired. It did not matter if you were unvaccinated or vaccinated. Sometimes, a high pulse rate and temperature were detected. Loss of smell and taste were not noticed.

Younger people seemed as susceptible as others. It is unknown what will happen when the variant works its way through those with co-morbidities (obese, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Speculation is that the symptoms will be more severe in the older generation with health issues. But, again, it is speculation based on earlier variant reactions in that demographic.

Infections Elsewhere The United Kingdom, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Belgium have positively identified the Omicron variant inside their borders. Cases of the Omicron variant have zoomed from around 500 new cases/day to over 4,000/day within one week. – It may be too early to tell, but there was a brief spike in new cases in Bostwana on the fourth of November and nothing since. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been in the low single digits for over the past two months. Namibia shows similar COVID-19 statistics as Botswana – few if any new cases and averaging less than two deaths/day from COVID-19 since the first of October. Lesotho shows more resiliency than Botswana and Namibia. Since August, there have been few cases or deaths from coronavirus. Swaziland’s new name is Eswatini (Land of the Swazis in the Swaziland language). They did not want to be confused with Switzerland. Regardless of the name change, there recent history of COVID-19 tracks other bordering countries. The Omicron variant appears to be making headway in South Africa. New cases of COVID-19 are increasing from under 500/day in the past five weeks to over 1,500/day this week and continuing to escalate sharply upward.

However, COVID-19 deaths have remained under 50/day for the past month and have shown no increase this week. So maybe this variant is not as lethal as other variants, or not enough time has elapsed to know Omicron’s lethality.


Is it wise to stop air travel from South Africa to other parts of the world? Maybe? If this variant spreads rapidly and produces fatigue, higher pulse rates, and higher body temperatures without increasing hospitalizations and deaths, that sounds like a reasonable tradeoff for naturally acquired immunity.

Herd immunity appeared to be a viable option twelve months ago. Then, we hoped that vaccinations and infections would top out around 65-80%, and the virus would die a natural death – unable to infect enough people to remain alive.

However, the vaccines have an expiration date for effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 infections. So that part of the equation did not live up to its billing. As a result, more fully vaccinated people are becoming infected with coronavirus and surviving – most without symptoms. This helps to achieve herd immunity in the long run.

When people do not know what the details are about a potential threat, the worst-case scenario is always offered as the most likely. Fear is better than education. South Africa may erupt as the next India with horrendous death rates from Omicron.

However, we should be vigilant, prepared, and keep everyone aware. As always, protect the most vulnerable.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –



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