Infectious Disease

What the CDC report says about the first Omicron cases in the US

December 13, 2021

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Adalja and Marrazzo do not report any relevant financial information. The authors do not report any relevant financial information.

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In a recently released MMWR report, members of the CDC’s COVID-19 response team provided details of the first 43 confirmed infections in the United States caused by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

According to the report, 79% of patients infected with the variant were fully vaccinated – 20 had completed a two-dose primary series and 14 had received a booster dose. There were eight unvaccinated patients and one whose status was unknown.

    Source: Adobe Stock

Source: Adobe Stock.

Only one of the 43 patients was hospitalized – for 2 days – and no deaths have been reported.

Amesh A. Adalja

“These early reports are comforting as there were not many, if any, serious illnesses.” Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Healio. “It will be important to see how this plays out as larger numbers of people become infected, including those at high risk and those who have not been vaccinated.”

According to the report, 58% of the patients were between 18 and 39 years old, 23% were 40 to 64 years old, 9% were 65 years or older, and four patients were younger than 18 years.

About a third of patients reported traveling internationally in the 14 days prior to testing positive for COVID-19, and six reported previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. The earliest day the patient had symptoms was November 15 – 9 days before the variant was first reported to the WHO – in a person with no travel history.

Of all cases, only 3 people were asymptomatic. The other 40 patients reported cough (89%), fatigue (65%), congestion (59%) and fever (38%) as common symptoms.

“Many of the first reported cases of Omicron variant infection appear to be mild, although as with all variants there is a delay between infection and more severe outcomes and symptoms are likely to be milder in vaccinated individuals and those with previous SARS-CoV -2- Infection than in unvaccinated people, ”the authors write.

“However, a highly transferable variant could, in sufficient cases, result in the health systems becoming overwhelmed,” they wrote.

Jeanne M. Marrazzo

We asked the editor of Infectious Disease News Jeanne M. Marrazzo, MD, MPH, Director of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to further clarify what the report tells us and what it doesn’t about the emerging variant.

Healio: What does the report tell us about the Omicron variant?

Marrazzo: The CDC report found that in this relatively small number of cases in a relatively young group of people, prior vaccination did not prevent infection in nearly 80% – several of whom had received a booster vaccination.

Symptoms are the same as those of viral upper respiratory tract infections, including cough, fatigue, and constipation; Fever occurred in almost half; and one person was hospitalized for two days. All of this suggests that the infection in this heavily vaccinated group did not appear to be severe.

Healio: What doesn’t the report tell us?

Marrazzo: We still don’t know how Omicron will perform if it spreads in a population with lower rates of vaccination, high rates of comorbidities, and variable rates of previous infections, or whether older people, despite their higher rates of vaccination, will be more prone to more serious effects.

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