Omicron has earned a reputation for being relatively mild – a nice trade-off considering it’s meant to be more than four times more transferrable as Delta.
But a study published in the British Medical Journal The lancet Last week it was found that Omicron BA.2 or “Stealth Omicron” – currently the world’s dominant variant – is not as mild as one might think, at least not in unvaccinated children.
The studypending peer review, examined and compared the medical records of all Hong Kong children aged 0-11 hospitalized with COVID during the Omicron BA.2 dominance wave from February 5-28 the records of children hospitalized during periods of other COVID variant dominance and pre-pandemic influenza and parainfluenza dominance.
It turned out that among children hospitalized with COVID during the Omicron BA.2 wave:
deaths were higher than other COVID variants, influenza and parainfluenza.
Admission to the pediatric intensive care unit were higher than other COVID variants and influenza.
Cases of neurological complications, including seizures, were increased compared to influenza and parainfluenza.
Prices from croup were higher than other COVID variants and influenza.
The need for mechanical ventilation and oxygen was higher than other COVID variants and the flu.
The authors’ conclusion: Omicron BA.2 “is not mild, as evidenced by deaths and serious complications in uninfected and unvaccinated children.”
Hong Kong’s COVID rates have been incredibly low for the first two years of the pandemic thanks to the government’s “zero-COVID” policy of strict interventions. As ABC News reported last month, the region has been a “poster flagship for COVID control, having gone a long period in the past year without a single reported infection.” Now the tarn omicron is sweeping the land, and its mortality rate is the highest in the developed world, according to ABC.
Vaccines were only approved for children in Hong Kong in mid-January. The vast majority of the children in the study had not been previously infected or vaccinated, according to the study, giving the scientists a rare glimpse into the impact of “Stealth Omicron” on a population that previously had little or no exposure to the virus.
Hardest hit among Hong Kong’s population of hospitalized children were those aged 5 and over, who accounted for 80% of the 1,147 children hospitalized in February. Of the four deaths, three of the children were under the age of 5. The researchers speculated that the country’s youngest age group may have been hardest hit because they had not been exposed to other seasonal coronaviruses in the past two years due to a lack of vaccinations.
in one comment entitled “Omicron severity: milder but not mild”, published in The lancet in January, two authors associated with the World Health Organization pointed out that in a “generally young South African population,” more than 20% of patients hospitalized with Omicron suffered a “severe clinical outcome.” A population with lower immunity from vaccines or previous infections could have a higher rate, they said.
“This report of typically milder disease following infection with the omicron variant compared to the delta variant in South Africa is encouraging, but we should not assume that epidemics of the omicron variant elsewhere will have such minor health effects,” they wrote she.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com