What are the symptoms of Omicron and has anyone died from it?

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  • With the strain replacing Delta as the most dominant strain in the UK, many people want to know what are the symptoms of Omicron and whether anyone has died from it.

    It’s the new strain that’s responsible for four out of five covid cases in London currently. And it’s increased infectiousness has led to positive cases of the Omicron strain reported in 110 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 people to recognise and understand what Omicron symptoms are.

    In response to the new strain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the public to ensure they get their booster jabs. With research showing that a third dose of the vaccine is effective in preventing hospital admissions due to Omicron. This in turn will hopefully relieve pressure on the NHS and stop the UK 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 sneezing. According to the ZOE symptom tracker app, people have also reported symptoms which aren’t usually associated with coronavirus, including loss of appetite and nausea.

    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”.

    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.”

    Here’s more details on what Omicron symptoms you should look out for:

    Fatigue

    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 close up of a woman on the sofa looking fatigued - an Omicron symptom

    Credit: Getty

    Headache

    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.

    Woman-with-a-sore-throat-

    Credit: Getty

    Runny Nose

    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.”

    Sneezing

    The scientists at ZOE Covid study have stated that whilst “sneezing is not normally a symptom of COVID-19,” they have seen data to suggest that increased sneezing in vaccinated people can be a sign you’re infected.

    “Interestingly, our data shows that people who had been vaccinated and then tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to report sneezing as a symptom compared with those without a jab,” they said. “This suggests that sneezing a lot with no explanation after you’ve been vaccinated could be a sign of COVID-19.”

    Whilst they have found a connection between the two they are careful to remind people that “the link between sneezing and COVID-19 isn’t very strong.” If sneezing is your only symptom, be sure to do a lateral test to rule anything out. Though in most cases it is likely to be a cold or allergy instead.

    A man sneezing which is an Omicron symptom

    Credit: Getty

    Is sickness a symptom of Omicron?

    Yes sickness could be a symptom of Omicron. Several medical professionals have shared that nausea has been reported by Covid positive patients. Though vomiting on it’s own is not likely to be a covid symptom. But rather something like food poisoning.

    Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London stated that those who were double vaxxed and had Covid registered feeling sick alongside other more known Omicron symptoms.

    “Quite a few of them had nausea, slight temperature, sore throats and headaches,” he said. And in some cases this nausea turned to vomiting.”

    “It’s true that nausea and vomiting are potential symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2,” adds Tufts Medical Centre, in a statement on their blog.

    This is further supported by The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). They observed that some Covid-positive patients developed gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. And these were often before the more familiar symptoms of cough, high fever and shortness of breath.

    If you are experiencing vomiting or nausea alongside Omicron symptoms like fatigue, coughing, headache sore throat and a runny nose then do a lateral flow immediately. However, if you’re just feeling sick, it’s more likely to be nothign to do with Covid. And more likely a bug or side effects of poor food consumption or pregnancy.

    How long are you infectious with Omicron?

    The UK government have stated that people with Covid – including the Omicron strain – can be infectious for up to 12 days.

    “People who have COVID-19 can infect others from around 2 days before symptoms start, and for up to 10 days after,” reads the government website. “They can pass the infection to others, even if they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, which is why they must stay at home.”

    It’s worth noting that this 12-day infectious period is a general precaution as everyone’s experience with the virus is different. Self-isolation rules changed recently to reflect this, as those who test negative on lateral flow tests after 7 days are no longer considered infectious.

    Furthermore, new data reveals that the Omicron variant may carry a shorter infectious period than other strains.

    “Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than the Delta variant,” UK health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on 6 December.

    This certainly supports a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found that it took just three 3 days for people to show symptoms after being infected with Omicron. And according to scientists, it makes sense for the incubation period of Omicron infections to be shorter seeing as it’s more contagious.

    “That’s why the spread is occurring at a much faster pace,” said Dr. Anita Gupta, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

    Does Omicron show up on lateral flow and PCR tests?

    Yes those who have the Omicron variant will test positive on both lateral flow and PCR 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 is important to know that unlike PCR tests, lateral flow tests will not be able to tell you if you specifically have Omicron. They simply show whether you have a Covid infection or not.

    The reason PCR tests can detect Omicron is to do with a mutated gene in their biological make-up.

    “As Omicron has a mutation here, that means that this part of the PCR test will fail. This is called S-gene drop-out or target failure,” continues the statement on Parliament.uk. “While not 100 percent accurate, it can be used as a proxy method for tracking the variant, especially if other dominant circulating variants are S-gene positive, as the Delta variant is.”

    If you are experiencing symptoms and are in doubt, always take a PCR test.

    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.”

    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%.”

    Being triple vaxxed won’t stop you from getting Omicron. But it will prevent you from getting a nasty case of it.

    New data from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that a booster vaccine is 88% effective at preventing people ending up in hospital with the Omicron strain of Covid-19.

    Is Omicron milder than Delta?

    Yes, current research suggests Omicron is milder than the Delta variant.

    A report by the UK Health Security Agency found that those who tested positive with the Omicron variant were about 50% less likely to be hospitalised than those with the Delta variant. This was based on an analysis of both Omicron and Delta cases between 22 November and 26 December.

    The latest report re-affirms a Scottish study which also evaluated the severity of Omicron based on national data. Scientists at Edinburgh and Strathclyde Universities concluded that “Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta.”

    A similar verdict was recorded in Imperial College London’s Omicron report released December 22. Researchers involved confirmed that those with Omicron symptoms where 11% less likely to turn up at A&E – compared to those infected with the Delta variant.

    There’s further good news too – with research also suggesting 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.

    This is certainly some good news, says Professor Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa:

    “Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants.”

    Has anyone died of Omicron variant?

    The UK Health Security Agency have reported a total of 75 Omicron related deaths in the United Kingdom.

    These fatalities were recorded in the government agency’s last Omicron daily overview report on 30 December 2021. They have since seized to report on Omicron related deaths. And are now instead returning to reporting the daily coronavirus death count.

    Elsewhere in the world, there has been Omicron-related deaths in Germany and India. And America reported their first Omicron death in late December – an unvaccinated man in the state of Texas.

    The first UK recorded Omicron related death was reported by the Prime Minister on 13 December.

    Boris Johnson shared the sad news during a visit to a vaccination clinic in West London:

    “Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.”

    This was based on data from the UK Health Security Agency. Who said the individual who died from Omicron was diagnosed in hospital.

    Death from Omicron seems less likely than previous strains according to new data. A South African study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found that patient deaths from Omicron averaged 4.5% during the country’s recent surge. And this is much lower than the 21.3% recorded from previous strains.

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