How do you know you are infected with Omicron?

As infections of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – continue to spread around the world, the symptoms, in some ways, have been reported to be different from those of infections. of the Delta variant. Are the symptoms really different? What should you watch out for?

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What do we know about the symptoms of an Omicron variant infection? Image credit: Pierre Crom / Getty Images.

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a worrying new variant of SARS-CoV-2 known as Omicron.

The variant has raised concern among health authorities as it appears to be highly transmissible and more likely to re-infect.

There are also concerns that Omicron could bypass the protection conferred by COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer maintains that three doses of its mRNA vaccine are able to neutralize Omicron in laboratory experiments and that two doses can still prevent serious illness after infection with this variant.

For these reasons, countries around the world have taken various measures and precautions to reduce the spread of Omicron among their populations.

Nonetheless, in a constantly moving world, it may be impossible to prevent it from spreading completely. One cause for optimism may be that various reports suggest that infections with this variant tend to cause milder symptoms than those with previous variants of SARS-CoV-2, such as Delta.

But how do you know if he has the Omicron infection? Are the symptoms the same as for infections with previous variants?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the symptoms infection with SARS-CoV-2 without specifying a variant. These are:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • tired
  • muscle or body pain
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

However, the CDC notes that this list is not exhaustive and that people may experience different symptoms or combinations of symptoms. Additionally, anecdotal reports on social media and other platforms claim that more specific combinations of symptoms characterize Omicron infections.

The Zoe COVID study – conducted by researchers at health sciences company ZOE and King’s College London in the UK – uses data from more than 4,000,000 participants.

The recent analysis of the study aimed to determine whether there were any differences between the most common symptoms of Delta variant infection and the most common symptoms of Omicron infection.

They compared symptoms reported through the Zoe COVID Study app by UK participants who tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2021, when Delta was dominant in the UK, with those who tested positive in December 2021 when Omicron had become the dominant variant.

A preliminary analysis indicated that the most frequently reported symptoms over the two months were largely the same: a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and a sore throat.

The results suggest that there are no stark differences in the most commonly experienced symptoms, possibly caused by the two variants of SARS-CoV-2.

However, according to this self-reported data, ZOE scientists also note that loss of smell and taste appears to be less common in people who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Medical News Today spoke with Dr. David M. Cutler, family physician at Saint John’s Physician Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., to learn more about doctors’ advice regarding symptoms of an Omicron infection.

Dr Cutler reiterated that symptoms vary, and may not stand out in any particular way, compared to signs of infection with previous variants.

“The variety of symptoms seen with Omicron is the same as with other variants of SARS-CoV-2,” he said. “It seems quite noticeable that people with the same variant may experience quite different symptoms. Some suffer from nasal congestion, others from headaches, sometimes from body aches and others from sore throats.

However, he noted, “[s]serious lung infections seem to be less likely with Omicron than with [with] earlier variants.

Perhaps this is because, unlike other variants, Omicron preferentially infects the upper respiratory tract. This may also be the reason why it appears to be causing milder symptoms, according to WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud.

“We are seeing more and more studies indicating that Omicron infects the upper part of the body. Unlike others, it could cause severe pneumonia, ”he says, warning that more studies are needed to confirm it.

There have also been anecdotal reports that lateral flow testing – also known as LFT – may be less effective in detecting the presence of an Omicron infection.

These tests, which people can do at home, are based on samples taken from a person’s nose, throat, or both and are meant to detect certain viral antigens, which indicate the presence of a viral infection.

According to Dr. Cutler, “[l]ateral flow tests are inherently inaccurate [because] [t]they do not detect low levels of virus as well as PCR tests.

RT-PCR tests, or PCR for short, are based on samples taken from both a person’s nose and throat. These samples, however, undergo lab tests, which can reveal whether genes specific to SARS-CoV-2 are present. PCR tests are more sensitive and generally considered to be more accurate.

Tests for genetic markers can also reveal, More precisely, the SARS-CoV-2 variant.

Some health agencies, such as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), have nevertheless stated that, when used correctly, LFTs should detect infections with any variant of SARS-CoV-2 in most cases.

A laboratory evaluation of lateral flow devices currently in use in the UK by the UKHSA also suggests that LFTs detect the Omicron as effectively as previous variants.

What if you are infected with the Omicron variant and the symptoms are mild enough that you do not need hospital treatment? How to treat a mild infection at home?

“There are no specific home remedies to prevent or treat non-prescription drugs. [COVID-19]”noted Dr. Cutler.

The best remedies are similar to those you might use to treat mild symptoms of the flu or a cold:

“The recommended treatment is symptom-based: stay hydrated, rested and well nourished. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve headache, muscle aches, or fever. Avoid unproven remedies like hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, zinc, and vitamin D, which have no known value and can cause side effects.

– Dr David M. Cutler

As they say, however, prevention is better than cure, so taking steps to protect ourselves and loved ones from infection with Omicron or any variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the best approach.

“The best method to prevent infection with any variant of SARS-CoV-2 is a multi-technique approach,” explained Dr. Cutler. “I like to call it a ‘Swiss cheese’ approach. “

“[J]just as you need multiple layers of swiss cheese so that you can’t see any ham through the cheese holes in a sandwich, you need multiple types of protection to avoid [COVID-19]. No protection technique is 100% effective. Vaccines, masks, distancing, ventilation, and avoiding sick or unvaccinated people are all important and effective in preventing you from contracting. [an] infection. And isolation when you’re infected is key to preventing yourself from spreading [the virus] to others.”

– David M. Cutler

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