The COVID-19 pandemic continues through to its third year and the Omicron variant is the current menace.
The highly-contagious variant has led to over 1 million reported cases in one alone in the United States.
However, what is intriguing is the difference in symptoms noticed by those that contracted the respiratory illness as it’s quite different from the original COVID-19 back in 2020.
Symptoms such as shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell which were characterized with the earlier strain of the coronavirus are now absent and it’s replaced by milder, cold-like symptoms.
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However, there are some interesting things to look for if you think you have been exposed to the coronavirus.
What are the symptoms?
Less than two months ago, the Omicron variant was identified in South Africa after a doctor noticed that she had a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 but with slightly different symptoms from the documented cases.
“It actually started with a male patient who’s around the age of 33 … and he said to me that he’s just [been] extremely tired for the past few days and he’s got these body aches and pains with a bit of a headache,” Dr. Angelique Coetzee told the BBC, adding that he had a “scratchy throat” and never lost his sense of taste or smell.
However, this has been what omicron patients have reported ever since that period. Another study was conducted in South Africa on 78,000 omicron patients and it was discovered that they were likely to experience a runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, headache, and a minor cough – if any at all.
Some people are also reported to be experiencing lower back pain along with muscle aches.
Compared to the delta variant and other previous versions of the coronavirus, patients who have omicron didn’t experience severe symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath which often require supplemental oxygen. They also didn’t lose their taste and smell.
How soon do people get infected?
The interesting thing about the omicron variant however is how quickly it spreads. Researchers think it has a shorter incubation period.
According to the director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown, Dr. Waleed Javaid in a statement to The New York Times, the incubation period of the omicron variant is very short.
And that explains why there are numerous cases being reported across the globe.
Instead of the previous four to six days that it usually takes for symptoms to appear with the Delta variant, those exposed to the omicron variant get sick within three days.
Javaid said that omicron’s many mutations likely make it easier for the variant to go inside cells and infect people.
Is omicron milder?
Even though the rate of hospitalization for people with Omicron is quite low compared to previous strains, those who have been vaccinated or boosted have more chances of not developing severe illness from the virus.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that more evidence is pointing to omicron as an upper respiratory infection that is less likely to lead to severe illnesses or death.
“We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia,” WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud said.
Even at that, observing COVID protocols and taking vaccines and booster shots are important as multiple people getting sick at once could overwhelm the health system according to Dr. Fauci.
“There are people who get severe illness from omicron,” Javaid told the Times. “It is still a coronavirus. We’re still in a pandemic.”