Runny nose, headache, nothing to spank a cat. However, all of these Johannesburg residents tested positive for COVID-19 and are likely among the new Omicron variant patients.
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In most cases, the virus has traveled through the body of their children, before attacking the immune system of parents who are often vaccinated. In South Africa, nearly three-quarters of new infections are now due to the mutant form of the coronavirus.
“I thought they had a cold,” says 41-year-old Julia, describing symptoms for her two daughters, ages 8 and 6.
They fell ill shortly after news of Omicron’s discovery by a team of South African researchers, sparking a worldwide panic.
Quickly, Julia also begins to feel a little sore throat, a slight dizziness. “The girls, then me: I knew I had it,” says the advertising consultant. And this, despite the two doses of vaccine received in August.
With the test results in hand, he still can’t believe it: “The symptoms are incredibly weak,” he said. “I smell the smells normally, I have not lost the flavor”, two symptoms that until now have been characteristic of the disease.
In two days, they got their children back. She, for her part, continues to take paracetamol. Far from the never-ending seesaw test that Covid patients sometimes describe during previous waves of the pandemic.
Same scenario for 38-year-old Jessica Willmore. Two children apparently with the flu. In fact, a Covid.
“We already feel fit enough to jump into the pool,” said the Briton, after only a few days of illness.
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Many unknowns still hang over the variant that has an unusual number of mutations and still represents “a very high risk,” according to the WHO. Scientists are working primarily on its potential for spread and resistance to vaccines.
But the first cases seen by various doctors in the field appear to show a relatively mild version of the disease. Officially the African country hardest hit by the virus, South Africa has nearly three million cases and more than 89,800 deaths.
Donovan Rothner, 42, is positive and has no symptoms. If you hadn’t planned a surgery soon, requiring a pre-test, you wouldn’t even know you’re infected. “It could have put a lot of people in danger,” he said, both surprised and relieved.
In front of a test center in a commercial district, the line lengthens with an air of déjà vu. More than fifty people wait in the southern summer sun. Some are contact cases, others just want to clear a doubt. Neither look really messed up.
Darienne Hallas, 40, hasn’t been feeling very well this week. And the positive tests from some colleagues in the office convinced her to do it too.
But she is not very worried: “Recently positive people, who had already had COVID, told me that they felt much less bad than the first time.” According to specialists, cases of reinfections seem to be more frequent with Omicron.
Teagan Paxman, 33, is also calm. “Even if I have it, it is not too serious, I am vaccinated.”
“We are not done with this virus yet, there are many variants,” is convinced Mohamed Maalin, a 42-year-old engineer. “The best thing to do is learn to live with it,” he says philosophically.
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