With cases on the rise in the UK, people want to know what are the symptoms of Omicron and whether anyone has died from it.
It’s the new variant that’s currently sweeping the nation and the rest of the world. With positive cases of the Omicron strain reported in 57 countries, including the UK, US and several European states. First detected in South Africa, medical professionals have claimed that symptoms differ from the Delta variant covid symptoms. Making it even more important for the public to recognise and understand what Omicron symptoms are.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Plan B measures in response to the new variant. With new face mask rules in place to reduce the spread of the virus and additionally prevent us from going back into lockdown.
What are the symptoms of Omicron covid variant?
Patients who have tested positive for Omicron have reported symptoms of fatigue, a scratchy throat, runny nose, headache and other body aches and pains.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, a GP and chair of the South African Medical Association was the first to detect the new strain. She told BBC’s Andrew Marr that cases examined felt “extremely tired” and had “body aches and pains with a bit of a headache”.
“We haven’t admitted anyone”
Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first spotted the new Covid variant Omicron, told #Marr the patients seen so far have had “very mild symptoms” https://t.co/srGoUeub7M pic.twitter.com/1Hw6rInPnX
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 29, 2021
She also noted how symptoms of Omicron differed from previous recognisable covid symptoms. With subjects reporting “not really a sore throat, more of a scratchy type of description and no cough or no loss of smell and taste.”
Dr Coetzee added that cases presented “very very mild symptoms”. And this certainly supports what Peter McGinn described to CNN. He was the first American to test positive with the Omicron variant:
“It honestly felt like a mild cold for about a day,” he said. “I had light fatigue, a runny nose and a sore throat. And after a day those symptoms went away.”
Further research agrees that Omicron might not carry as aggressive symptoms. A recent South African study examined positive Omicron patients in a hospital based in the Gauteng Province. They found that the subjects tended to be younger (80% of them under 50). And that most did not require oxygen for treatment. In fact, many of them visited the hospital for different reasons and tested positive with Covid after.
Here’s more details on what Omicron symptoms you should look out for:
A Netherlands study determined fatigue is “highly prevalent” in long Covid cases. Researchers described it as severe with patients showing “both physical and mental fatigue”.
Mental fatigue is a medical condition that is defined as when someone feels tired and emotionally exhausted. They may find themselves less productive and experiencing poor cognitive function like not being able to concentrate or stay focused on tasks.
Meanwhile, physical fatigue affects the general body. “A person with physical fatigue may find it physically hard to do the things they usually do, such as climbing the stairs,” says Medical News Today. “Symptoms include muscle weakness, and diagnosis may involve completing a strength test.
A study in the Journal of Headaches and Pains looked into Covid-related headaches. And researchers found they tended to last for three days plus, with moderate to severe pain reported on both sides of the head. Participants said their headaches had a “pulsing” “pressing” or “stabbing” quality to them. And that the headache did not clear up when painkillers were taken.
As for headaches being a Covid symptom, health professionals of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study gave a few possible reasonings:
“It may be the virus directly affecting the brain. Or it could be related to being ill, such as dehydration or hunger caused by not eating and drinking normally.”
Read our advice on how to get rid of a headache fast if you are currently suffering.
Other body aches and pains
Various complaints of pain were reported in one Indonesian study looking into Covid patients. Researchers cited muscular pain, in addition to “joint pain, stomach pain, and testicular pain”.
Indeed those using the Zoe Covid app reported aches and pains especially in their shoulders and legs. “This muscle pain stops them from doing day-to-day tasks,” they added.
Sore or “Scratchy” throat
Figures from an Egyptian study suggest a sore throat as a common byproduct of the covid infection. Researchers examined 120 people with COVID-19 and reported that 30% of them reported a sore throat.
Data from the Zoe COVID app found that sore throats were commonly reported in adults aged between 18-65, rather than elderly patients. It tended to be a mild symptom that tended not to last more than 5 days.
South African Dr Angelique Coetzee, who discovered the Omicron variant has spoken a lot about patients with this strain experiencing more of “a scratchy throat”. This is likely to be irritable and painful when you swallow.
Check out our sore throat remedies if you are currently experiencing pain.
A runny nose is considered a covid symptom when you experience it alongside other identified covid symptoms.
For example, the Zoe COVID Study reports that “nearly 60% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 with loss of smell also reported having a runny nose.”
A runny nose is also a common factor associated with allergies like Hay fever plus colds and the seasonal flu.
“A runny nose and headache are symptoms of many infections, but may also be the first symptoms – and only symptoms – of Covid,” explains Professor Irene Petersen, an epidemiology and health professor at University College London. “Therefore, if you have these symptoms, I’d encourage you to use lateral flow tests for a couple of days.”
Does Omicron show up on PCR and lateral flow tests?
Yes those who have the Omicron variant will test positive on both PCR and lateral flow tests.
“PCR tests can detect those infected with the Omicron variant,” reads a statement on the UK Parliament website. “It is likely that lateral flow tests will detect infections caused by Omicron; research is underway to verify this.”
Indeed, scientists at Goethe University’s Institute of Medical Virology in Frankfurt have said that lateral flow tests produced by three major companies have detected Omicron in samples. And this includes ACON’s Flowflex test – the main provider of NHS Test and Trace’s nose-only lateral flow tests.
This, according to Professor Christina Pagel, director of University College London’s Clinical Operational Research Unit is “good news”.
It causes a different reaction in the PCR test – so easy to screen samples – though not all types of PCR test pick it up https://t.co/xEIctVdq1i
— Tim Spector (@timspector) December 11, 2021
It is important to know that unlike PCR tests, lateral flow tests will not be able to tell you if you specifically have Omicron or other variants. They simply show whether you have a Covid infection or not. And while lateral flow tests can be false positive, this is highly unlikely according to new research.
This is why it is important to get a PCR after a positive lateral flow test:
“If you did a rapid lateral flow test at home or at a test site, and the result was positive self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test (a test that is sent to a lab) to confirm your result as soon as possible,” says the NHS website.
The premise is that in the lab your PCR sample will be tested to identifiy what Covid strain it is.
Why is Omicron more transmissible?
Omicron is more transmissable because it’s genetic build-up carries a higher number of mutations than other variants.
Whilst some of these mutations have appeared in other Covid variants (Beta and Delta), Omicron has shown to have new ones that scientists haven’t seen before. And these new mutations are located in the virus’s spike protein. This determines both how infectuous it is and how easy it is for antibodies to detect the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) have said that Omicron has been “detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.” The British government have also cited research which supports Omicron’s increased infectousness.
“The latest data suggests Omicron is extremely transmissible and will become the dominant variant by mid-December,” says a statement on the UK government website. “Cases are now doubling every 2 to 3 days.”
Basically, what we are seeing is that Omicron is more transmissible (it has a higher R). This is a combination of inherent R0 *and* immunity evasion. Same line = same R.
Preliminary indications probably worse than Delta.
Countries (including UK) need to prepare now. https://t.co/IiRAfAGpjR
— Dr Duncan Robertson (@Dr_D_Robertson) December 2, 2021
There’s somewhat further cause for concern too. With one South African study showing that Omicron has “substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection”. This is in comparison to the Beta and Delta variants which have shown no evidence of re-infection.
“Data published on Friday suggests that vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection is substantially reduced against Omicron with just two doses,” added the UK government. “But a third dose boosts protection back up to over 70%.”
This is why the Prime Minister has stepped up it’s drive for everyone to get their Covid booster jab across the UK.
Has anyone died of Omicron variant?
According to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there has been one confirmed death as a result of the Omicron variant.
During a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, West London, Mr Johnson said: “Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control similarly confirmed that there has been one Omicron-related death recorded across the EU as of 16 December. They cited the UK Health Security Agency as their source, who said the individual who died from Omicron was diagnosed in hospital.
As it currently stands 27 countries across Europe have all confirmed cases of the variant.
Omicron is still a relatively new variant and so more research is currently underway globally to understand more. South Africa was the first country to confirm an Omicron case on November 24, 2021. And two days later the WHO announced it as a ‘Variant of Concern’.
Despite this, the WHO has told the public not to panic about the B.1.1.529 strain (Omicron’s scientific name).
Senior WHO scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters: “How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago.”
Whilst acknowledging that data suggests that Omicron is “highly transmissible”, the Delta variant is still the dominant force. With 99% of covid cases globally confirmed as Delta.
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