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Fauci says early data on Omicron severity is ‘encouraging’

US chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 20, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
US chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 20, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Early indications of the severity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are “a bit encouraging,” says top US pandemic adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, while cautioning more information is still needed.

“Omicron has a transmission advantage” in South Africa, where the variant was first reported, Fauci says in a CNN interview, noting the country had a low level of cases before it saw “almost a vertical spike upwards, which is almost exclusively Omicron.”

“Though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” he says. “Thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging.”

Medical experts have in recent days underscored that the South African population skews young and that more severe cases could emerge in the coming weeks.

Lab tests are underway to determine whether Omicron — a heavily mutated strain of the virus — is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to immunity from vaccination and infection, or more severe, with results expected within weeks.

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