People with Omicron do not gasp for air as much as with other variants, but get “really sick in a different way,” said an emergency doctor

  • Omicron makes people sick in a different way than the original virus, an emergency doctor has said.

  • The variant exacerbates other medical conditions, and there is “so much of it,” said Dr. Craig Spencer.

  • “The nightmare is over, but it’s scary too,” he said tweeted Tuesday.

COVID-19 caused by Omicron “makes people really sick in a different way” compared to the original virus, a leading emergency doctor has said.

Dr. Craig Spencer, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, tweeted Tuesday that fewer patients “gasped for air” and required oxygen, in contrast to the first wave in March 2020.

A patient on the trolley is transferred from ambulance to hospital.

New York City has more than 5,000 COVID-19 hospital admissions per year. January 3, official data show.Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty

“But there’s just SO much of it, and it affects patients in different ways,” Spencer said, referring to his experience during an ER shift in New York City.

Spencer said “record numbers” of people with COVID-19 attended the emergency room, as well as “extremely high” numbers of non-COVID-19 patients. “During the first climb, COVID was the only thing we saw in our emergency rooms,” he said.

According to Spencer, COVID-19 makes pre-existing medical conditions worse. For example, it can trigger a life-threatening condition, called diabetic ketoacidosis, in people with diabetes, he said.

Elderly people with COVID-19 may become too weak to get out of bed, unable to walk and unable to leave the hospital, he said.

“What is also different now is that the COVID cases often lie in beds next to patients who have done everything to avoid the virus and for whom an infection can have a dramatic toll,” Spencer added. . “The cancer patient in chemotherapy. The immunocompromised or seriously ill with something else.”

There were 5,495 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York City as of Monday, official statistics show – four times as many as two weeks ago and higher than any time since May 2020.

“The nightmare is over. But it’s scary too,” he said.

In the UK – where Omicron is the most common variant – two-thirds of COVID-19 patients were admitted directly with COVID-19, according to NHS England data released Friday.

The rest were a “mix” of people with COVID-19, which made existing conditions worse, COVID-19 came up randomly, or people stayed in the hospital, Christina Pagel, professor of surgical research at University College London, said on Twitter at the time.

It is still unclear whether Omicron itself causes symptoms other than variants, or whether immunity from previous infections or vaccinations prevents it from becoming more severe.

Spencer said most of the sickest patients with COVID-19 were unvaccinated, even with Omicron. “If you have not been vaccinated or boosted yet, it’s really time now. It makes a difference,” he said.

Symptoms according to vaccine status

Another place, Mucio Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s emergency department, said on Twitter on Monday that he had seen a “strikingly consistent pattern” in symptoms based on vaccination status.

Delgado said he “hardly saw anyone who had been given a booster because if they caught COVID-19, they are probably at home feeling fine or having regular cold / flu-like symptoms.”

Meanwhile, when people were vaccinated but not boosted, he said he found many patients were “wiped out, dehydrated and feverish.” Delgado said people older than 55 or had other medical problems were often hospitalized overnight for intravenous fluids and “supportive care,” but usually went home within a day or two.

Finally, Delgado said that in his experience, unvaccinated people were “the people who get sick and have to be hospitalized because they need oxygen.” “Some even younger than me,” he said.

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