A South African doctor has revealed that symptoms of the Omicron Covid variant are different from the previously predominant Delta strain. Here are the signs you need to look out for
Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, who was one of the first people to suspect the Omicron Covid strain, has said she noticed patients at her private clinic showing symptoms that are different from the Delta variant.
The new variant was first detected in southern Africa and has been named a “variant of concern” by the WHO as many countries including the UK have tightened travel rules.
The variant was first announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on November 25.
Dr Coetzee told the AFP that she alerted health officials of a “clinical picture that doesn’t fit Delta” on 18 November when seven patients showed different symptoms that seemed “very much related to normal viral infection”.
What is Omicron?
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The Omicron strain, or B.1.1.529, is a super mutant variant which has 50 genetic mutations, over 30 of them being spike protein mutations.
With traits seen in previous variants as well as three new changes that have never been seen before, scientists have expressed worry over Omicron’s transmissibility and ability to evade immunity from vaccines and previous infections.
What are the symptoms of Omicron?
Dr Coetzee told the BBC that the symptoms of Omicron are “mild”.
She said her patients presented with extreme tiredness, mild muscle aches, scratchy throat and dry cough.
Unlike the previous variants, this one doesn’t cause loss of taste or smell, she added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that initially reported infections were among university students exhibiting mild illness, adding that the severity of the variant won’t be clear until days or even weeks from now.
How is it different to the Delta variant?
Compared to the Delta variant, Dr Coetzee has said the symptoms are “very, very mild,” with no patients being admitted to surgeries over infections so far.
She highlighted that most patients with Omicron could be treated at home.
Though cases are not severe yet, Dr Coetzee warned: “What we have to worry about is older, unvaccinated people.
“If they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe form of the disease.”
What to do if you have symptoms of Covid-19?
Anyone with any symptoms of Covid need to stay at home and self-isolate immediately.
Arrange a PCR test as soon as possible, whether or not you’ve received one or two doses of the vaccine.
The UK government is also set to reintroduce masks in public transport and retail settings, as well as requiring people flying in to take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result.