Omicron COVID Variant Symptoms: What We Know

On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new COVID-19 variant of concern: Omicron or B.1.1.529. There’s still much more that scientists need to learn about the variant in order to fully gauge its transmissibility and how effective current vaccines are against it, as well as what the Omicron variant symptoms are. The CDC identified the first case of the new variant — reported initially to the WHO by South Africa — in the United States, specifically California, on Dec. 1. This person was fully vaccinated and returned from South Africa on Nov. 22. “All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative,” the CDC stated.

Two days prior, President Joe Biden told Americans that Omicron was not a cause for panic, and California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office echoed that upon announcing the US Omicron case.

What Are Omicron COVID Variant Symptoms?

Currently, more research is needed to clearly identify Omicron variant symptoms. The WHO stated that it’s not yet clear whether people infected by the Omicron COVID-19 variant have worse cases or differing symptoms compared to other variants such as the highly contagious Delta variant, which accounts for the heavy majority of cases in the US at this time, according to the CDC’s national genomic surveillance system. “Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in the United States,” the CDC said on Dec. 1.

The WHO noted in an update about Omicron that initial reports of COVID-19 cases caused by the new variant were in university students — and younger people tend to present with more mild cases. Dr. Angelique Coetzee, reportedly one of the first known doctors treating patients with the Omicron COVID-19 variant, told BBC that consistent symptoms she saw in patients were as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches and pain
  • Headache
  • Scratchy throat

These symptoms, in her opinion, don’t “fit in with” the Delta variant. Dr. Coetzee, also the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, told CNN that patients at this point “are not severely ill,” don’t need to be hospitalized, and can be treated at home. Reuters also spoke to the doctor, who noted that her patients are not reporting loss of smell or taste and there are no major drops in oxygen levels. Similarly, the person who had a confirmed case of the new variant is said to have “mild symptoms that are improving.”

The WHO did state that preliminary data suggest there are higher rates of hospitalization in South Africa, where Omicron is spreading, “but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.” While South Africa first alerted the WHO about Omicron, the variant was reportedly present prior in the Netherlands and Nigeria. It has since been detected across continents, and you can track the spread of Omicron here, courtesy of The New York Times.

Understanding the severity of the new variant, the WHO said, will take up to several weeks. “All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.”

Omicron has a large number of mutations, some of which the WHO said are cause for concern; however, Dr. Noc on TikTok, a scientist with a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and immunology, said in a Nov. 29 video he wanted to emphasize that “simply having a large number of mutations does not necessarily make the virus much, much worse.” He also said it’s hard to predict right now what that combination of mutations will do and, echoing the WHO, that pinpointing actual severity of the disease caused by the Omicron variant could take months.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.

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