Cases of the Omicron Covid variant are on the rise. It is difficult to tell which variant of coronavirus a person has, but there are specific tests and symptoms to look out for
Image: Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF)
Cases of the Omicron Covid variant of the coronavirus are on the rise.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on Monday that the new mutant strain of Covid-19 accounts for around 20% of cases in the country at the moment.
This is expected to rise as the variant becomes dominant and infects an estimated 200,000 people per day.
To fight the virus, the government is attempting to give every adult a booster jab, this equates to around 1 million jabs a day until the new year.
And, on Tuesday, 14 December, Dr Angelique Coetzee, the doctor who raised the alarm about the Omicron variant and chair of the South African Medical Association, warned of new symptoms to look out for and highlighted the importance of alerting your GP.
How do I know if I have the Omicron variant?
Lateral flow tests can work out if you have some form of Covid-19, but for the specific variant, you need a PCR test.
Not all laboratories have the required equipment to test for the variant; only around a third of UK laboratories have the technology to test for Omicron. This test is known as genomic sequencing.
Roughly 20% of swabs from positive test results are sent for genomic sequencing. This is currently around 60,000 tests per week.
Confirming a suspected case of Omicron can take up to four or five days, much longer than when you are expected to receive the results of your PCR.
How to get a PCR test and see if I have Omicron
AFP via Getty Images)
PCR tests can be ordered for free from the Government online or you can book an appointment for one at a walk-in or drive-through centre.
They look for the absence of something called the ‘S-gene’, a spike protein not usually found in Omicron. This is not guaranteed, however, so it takes a few days for the results to come back.
If a laboratory does test that you have the variant, you should receive this news via the NHS contact tracers.
The Government website says: “If you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you must stay at home and self-isolate if you are not fully vaccinated or if they have been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.”
What are the new symptoms of Omicron
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF)
Much of what we know about this variant is only suspected and not guaranteed. However, on Wednesday, December 14, Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, warned that headaches are a key symptom of Omicron.
She said: “Even if you wake up with a slight headache, not feeling well, please come and let us [your GP] double check.”
Dr Coetzee added that people should be wary if they have symptoms as a rapid test is unlikely to show a positive straight away. Instead, she advised waiting “24 hours” before taking a rapid test to avoid false negatives and the chance of spreading the variant.
The World Health Organization have been wary of putting a definitive label on potential symptoms.
It said: “There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.
“Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.”
While there are early indications that the virus is less harmful (in terms of symptoms) than the Delta variant, it should not be taken lightly.
Other initial studies believe the variant to be more transmissible and more resistant to the vaccine.
The five symptoms associated with the new Omicron variant are believed to be:
- A scratchy throat (as opposed to a sore throat)
- A dry cough
Mild muscle aches
- Night sweats
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.