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With cases rising 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 across the nation and the rest of the world. With positive cases of the Omicron strain reported in 67 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 a range of new measures in response to the new variant. This includes a push for people to get booster jabs to help protect themselves from Omicron and 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 sneezing.
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:
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.”
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.
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 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. However, self isolation rules have changed for England. Be sure to look at updated advice.
The premise is that in the lab your PCR sample will be tested to identify 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.”
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%.”
Is Omicron milder than Delta?
Yes, current research suggests Omicron is milder than the Delta variant.
A new Scottish study evaluated the severity of Omicron based on national data between November 1 – December 19, 2021.
The 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.”
The same 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.
Further research also 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.
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 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have reported 7 Omicron related deaths in the United Kingdom.
There has only been one other death recorded globally – an unvaccinated man in Texas, USA. This brings the total worldwide Omicron death count to 8.
The first UK recorded Omicron related death was reported by the Prime Minister on 13 December.
During a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, West London, Boris Johnson said: “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.
As it currently stands 28 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.
In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”
In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.