Shoppers wear face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 seen while walking around Oxford Circus in London.
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LONDON. Symptoms associated with the omicron variant of Covid-19 may be similar to those that commonly accompany the common cold, but experts warn people not to underestimate the risks associated with a more transmitted strain.
One UK study found that omicron infections can be associated with symptoms that make it easy to mistake for a common medical condition such as the common cold.
The ZOE COVID Study, which analyzes thousands of Covid symptoms uploaded to the app by the British public, this week looked at symptoms related to Covid cases in London, which were reported over two separate weeks in October and December, i.e. earlier (as far as is known ) and after the omicron began to spread in the capital.
This initial analysis found similarities between the delta and omicron variants, suggesting that the latter did not mutate back into the more flu-like symptoms of previous Covid strains. The team said the five main symptoms reported on the ZOE app over these two different weeks were:
- Runny nose
- Fatigue (mild or severe)
- Sore throat
London was selected for the ZOE analysis because of the higher omicron prevalence compared to other regions. The omicron variant is already the dominant strain in the capital and will soon account for nearly all infections in London and the UK as a whole.
Experts predict that this phenomenon is likely to repeat itself in other parts of the world. However, this time with the omicron variant, case detection may be more difficult.
Professor Tim Spector, lead researcher on the ZOE COVID Study app, said there is a risk that potential cases of omicron could be mistaken for a mild cold.
“As our latest data show, omicron symptoms are predominantly cold symptoms, runny nose, headache, sore throat and sneezing, so people should stay at home as it could very well be Covid,” Spector said in a recent ZOE report on Thursday. …
“Hopefully people now recognize the symptoms of the common cold, which seems to be the predominant feature of the omicron,” he added.
Spector noted, like other UK Covid experts, that omicron looks set to become the dominant variety in the UK by Christmas, and many people are now wondering if the UK could go into quarantine in the new year.
“Ahead of the New Year, the case count could peak higher than anything we’ve ever seen,” Spector said, although he hoped the rise in London cases could reverse somewhat as the prime minister Boris Johnson inspires people. healthcare professionals to reduce their social interactions, work from home and wear face masks.
What do we know about the omicron
It would be a big mistake to underestimate the risks associated with the omicron variant, despite some evidence that it causes milder symptoms, more like the common cold than the flu.
Experts believe that omicron is a much more common strain than the delta variant and believe it will soon become the dominant strain internationally. Omicron’s rise to prominence is noteworthy given the fact that it was only designated an “option of concern” by the World Health Organization on November 26, two days after South Africa reported its discovery.
Early small studies showed that while it was more virulent than the delta variant, it could cause less serious infections, but this remains to be seen on a broader, more realistic level as the person becomes infected (younger people tend to tolerate more mild Covid infections), general health and vaccination status (including when they were fully vaccinated, as we know immunity diminishes after six months) are factors that affect how the disease is carried.
The South African physician who first identified the variant among his patients said the initial symptoms she saw in her own clinic were “extremely mild,” but that it was from a small group of people.
Vaccine makers said the option undermines the effectiveness of the full course of Covid vaccinations, but booster vaccinations help restore much of the vaccine’s protection against severe infection, hospitalization, and death.
Experts warn that an increase in hospitalizations is now inevitable given the increased transmissibility of the omicron.
South Africa has seen a rise in hospital admissions (although most admissions were unvaccinated) and the UK is also seeing a rise, and Johnson noted on Wednesday that the country is now seeing what he called “an inevitable increase in hospital admissions.” growth of 10% per week in the country and almost a third in London. “
There are just over 10,000 cases of omicron reported in the UK to date, with the number doubling every two days or less, and experts predict this will greatly underestimate the true number of omicron infections.
The first two confirmed cases of this variant in the UK were announced on November 27, and they had links to a trip to South Africa. However, community transmissions were confirmed shortly thereafter, which means the variant probably spread earlier.
Omicron is making his presence known in the UK thanks to a spike in Covid cases, prompting the government to rush to get the shots in the hands of the people. On Wednesday, the UK reported the highest number of Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, with 78,610 new infections.
England’s chief physician, Professor Chris Whitty, on Wednesday called for “serious caution” over hospitalization data, especially in South Africa, which suggests omicron may cause milder disease. According to him, the level of immunity among the population has been different due to the recent wave of delta infections.
He noted that more data is still needed on hospitalizations, serious illnesses and deaths, but that “everything we know is [about omicron] bad. “
Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for Covid-19, later told Sky News on Wednesday that the UK is “in a very serious situation indeed.”
“The growth you are seeing in the UK today is just the beginning of an extraordinary acceleration,” he said.
“There are two epidemics going on; delta and omicron. And this is an emergency for the British health service. It will get extremely serious over the next two weeks, possibly faster. ”
Nabarro added that the proliferation of the omicron variant was “serious in the UK, serious in Europe and serious for the world.”
“We are concerned that people think the omicron is benign,” he said. “Even if the omicron causes less severe illnesses, the huge number of cases will overwhelm healthcare systems again.”