Delta variant still in New Brunswick, says Edmundston doctor

The COVID-19 Delta variant is still present in at least one corner of New Brunswick.

Three patients in the intensive care unit at the Edmundston Regional Hospital had the Delta variant as of Wednesday afternoon.

Delta is more severe but not as transmissible as the now dominant Omicron variant.

The hospital was awaiting test results to see if other patients admitted this week also have Delta, said Dr. John Tobin, chief of the Zone 4 family medicine department for Vitalité Health Network.

“We feel like there’s still a bit of the Delta variant left in the community because we still have a few admissions where patients have symptoms that resemble the Delta variant,” he said.

“Literally, we can flag patients who probably have Omicron because their symptoms are so mild. Most of them don’t have any COVID symptoms.”

Tobin said that so far, all Omicron patients at the Edmundston hospital have been admitted for other reasons and their positive COVID status has shown up on screening.

10 COVID patients in intensive care

The province reported just 10 patients in the province’s intensive care units on Wednesday, making the three patients in the Edmundston Delta a significant part of the total.

All three patients are presumed to have Delta because their tests came back negative for Omicron and their more severe symptoms match Delta’s profile.

All three have been in intensive care for a few weeks and are starting to improve, Tobin said.

On January 4, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said the new Omicron variant accounted for 100% of COVID-19 cases in some health zones, but as low as 86% in others. .

Dr. John Tobin is the Chief of the Department of Family Medicine for Zone 4 at Vitalité Health Network. (Government of New Brunswick)

Delta patients tend to be sicker and need more specialized care, but vaccines protect better against the variant.

With Omicron, vaccines do not protect against infection as well, but they reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

And Omicron’s symptoms tend to be less severe, not ending up in intensive care, and not dying from COVID, Tobin said.

Hospitalization rate

Earlier this week, provincial epidemiologist Mathieu Chalifoux said 60 out of 1,000 Delta cases require hospitalization, compared to 10 out of 1,000 Omicron cases.

Last Friday, Vitalité declared an outbreak at the Edmundston hospital, saying there were three COVID-19 patients in intensive care and 11 others admitted to hospital. There were also exposures in three nursing units.

Tobin said that if there was a way to choose between the more severe and less contagious Delta and the less severe and more contagious Omicron, it would be a tough choice.

“Our wish would be to have no COVID patients,” Tobin said. “If we find COVID patients who are hospitalized, it might as well be Omicron so we can treat the patient for their illness and not for COVID.”

Outside the hospital, Tobin guesses that “there’s a lot more Omicron than Delta. I’m guessing Delta is about to break out, running out of the community real fast.”

Although Omicron is generally less severe, officials predict that the large number of cases expected in the coming weeks will still put enormous pressure on hospitals, as a portion of these cases will require hospital care.

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