Symptoms of the Omicron Covid variant? Here’s what we know so far

Medical staff work in the corridors of the intensive care unit where patients with Covid-19 are hospitalized at Etterbek-Ixelles Hospital on April 6, 2021 in Brussels.

JOHN TEES | AFP | Getty Images

Covid symptoms associated with the new omicron variant were described by a South African physician as “extremely mild,” who first raised the alarm about the new strain.

Dr. Angelica Cootzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC on Sunday that around November 18, she began seeing patients with “unusual symptoms” that were slightly different from those associated with the delta option, which is the most dangerous. the strain of the virus today and is dominant throughout the world.

“It actually started with a male patient who is about 33 years old … and he told me that he was just [been] very tired over the past few days and his whole body hurts and a little headache, ”she told the BBC.

The patient did not have a sore throat, she said, but rather had a “sore throat,” but did not have a cough, loss of taste or smell – symptoms that were associated with previous strains of the coronavirus.

Coetzee said she tested a male patient for Covid and he was positive, like his family, and then said that she saw more patients that day with the same symptoms that were different from the delta variant.

This prompted her to sound the alarm at the South African Vaccine Advisory Committee of which she is a member.

Other patients she has seen so far with the omicron variant also experienced what she described as “extremely mild” symptoms, and she added that her colleagues have noted similar cases.

“What we see clinically in South Africa – and remember that I am at the epicenter of this where I practice – is extremely gentle for us. [these are] easy cases. We didn’t accept anyone, I talked to my other colleagues, and they give the same picture. ”

Investigation continues

WHO said it will take weeks to understand how this option might affect diagnostics, therapy and vaccines.

Coetzee’s initial observations are based on only a very small number of cases, and experts are concerned about the large number of omicron mutations. According to the WHO, preliminary data indicate that this strain has an increased risk of re-infection.

More details: WHO calls new Covid strain, dubbed omicron, “a worrying variant”, citing possible increased risk of reinfection

Early evidence suggests that this variant is spreading more rapidly in South Africa than previous variants, and that the variant, officially known as B.1.1.529, could start causing a new wave of infections. according to the analysis of the Financial Times

It may take time to fully understand what specific symptoms, if any, can be attributed to the new omicron variant on a broader scale.

Covid symptoms have changed since the virus first appeared in China in late 2019, according to experts tracking the disease. The alpha and delta variants, first discovered in the UK and India, cause various symptoms, such as the latter causing increased headaches, runny nose and fever.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has highlighted the various reported symptoms of Covid., noting that “anyone can have mild to severe symptoms” that may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

The list of symptoms listed by the CDC includes fever or chills, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nasal congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting. and diarrhea.

Excessive panic?

A number of countries have now temporarily banned travel from several countries in southern Africa where the option was discovered in what was described by the South African health minister on Friday as a “harsh, draconian” response.

Asked by BBC reporter Andrew Marr about “whether countries like the US, UK, Israel and the EU panicked unnecessarily,” Coetzee stressed that the omicron variant has probably already spread to those countries.

“I think that you already have it in your country, without even knowing about it, so I would say definitely at this stage. In two weeks, maybe we will say something else, ”she added.

Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, told CNBC on Monday that “we have to thank South Africa” for raising the alarm about the new option, which is already was found in the UK, France, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong, but not yet in the US.

WHO’s Harris said the organization doesn’t want to see travel restrictions, but understands that countries need to take precautions based on their own epidemiological situation and risk-based analysis of current data.

The UN health agency said on Monday that the delta variant is still the cause of most of the current infections worldwide and, as such, remains of greatest concern.

“More than 99% of cases worldwide are associated with the delta variant, and more deaths occur among the unvaccinated,” WHO Chief Scientist Sumya Swaminathan told CNBC on Monday in an interview with Squawk Box Asia.

“I think this is our priority while we wait to learn more about [the omicron] option.”

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