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South Africa COVID-19 omicron study indicates less likelihood of hospitalization, severe illness

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Preliminary data from a South African study that analyzed the severity of the COVID-19 omicron variant indicates a possible less likelihood of hospitalization and severe illness than with other variants. 

A preprint of the study, which has yet to receive certification by peer review, indicates that individuals with S Gene Target Failure (SGTF) – which is an indicator that presumes omicron infection – were 80% less likely to require hospitalization once infected, and even once in the hospital were 70% less likely to develop severe illness than did someone with the delta variant. 

The study noted that “some of this reduction is likely a result of high population immunity.” 

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Researchers examined links between SARS-CoV-2 lab tests, COVID-19 case data, genome data, and the DATCOV national hospital surveillance system for the country examining individuals diagnosed between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 of this year. 

People who have just received their jab against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021 wait for their vaccine card to be processed at the Orange Farm, South Africa, multipurpose center. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination campaign a week after the discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

People who have just received their jab against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021 wait for their vaccine card to be processed at the Orange Farm, South Africa, multipurpose center. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination campaign a week after the discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

They then compared the data to delta variant infections diagnosed between April and Nov. 2021. 

Infections included individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, those who acquired infection in a hospital, and those who tested positive when admitted for another reason. 

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The study also controlled for factors that contribute to differing levels of severity, including age, co-morbidities, sex, province, and healthcare sector. 

South Africa’s median age is 27.6 years old, according to data from Worldometer. 

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The study resulted from a collaboration between the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Pathology, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of the National Health Laboratory Service, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Health Sciences, National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), and Lancet Laboratories.

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