Omicron symptoms different to previous Covid strains – the key things to look for

Medics in South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected, are saying the main symptoms of the new variant are fatigue, body aches and a headache – and are not reflected on the NHS website

People walk past a Selfridge's store on Oxford Street in London as Omicron cases in the UK continue to rise
People walk past a Selfridge’s store on Oxford Street in London as Omicron cases in the UK continue to rise

Omicron symptoms are different to other strains and these are the things you should look out for.

The three main symptoms of Covid-19 are a persistent new cough, a fever and loss of taste and smell.

However, the Omicron variant ‘s main symptoms are different as experts worry it could be difficult to detect.

The current list of symptoms on the NHS website has remained unchanged since the first lockdown, even with the detection of other variants such as Delta.

Medics in South Africa, where the variant was first detected, are saying the main symptoms of Omicron are fatigue, body aches and a headache.

One UK expert said up to one in four colds could currently be Covid as the symptoms become more mild.

A man gets a booster jab at a vaccination centre in North London


Dinendra Haria / LNP)

Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of the South African Medical Association, said patients have not been reporting a loss of taste and smell.

It comes as Covid cases in the UK are increasing and so are concerns about the Omicron variant, with an expert saying there are likely to be more than 1,000 cases of Omicron in the UK, just 10 days after the coronavirus was first discovered.

The strain was first located in the UK in Chelmsford and Nottingham on November 27, 2021, after initially detected in southern Africa.

Since then, cases have been rapidly increasing across the country.

Drivers queue at Covid testing centre in Brent Cross


Evening Standard / eyevine)

Today, the total number of Omicron cases in the UK hit 437 as 101 new infections have been confirmed.

This includes a further 72 cases in England, 28 in Scotland and one in Wales, according to figures from the UK Health Security Agency.

It is not yet known if the new variant increases hospital admissions or is impacted by the common vaccines.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the school of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it “is spreading rather more quickly than the Delta variant”.

The professor told BBC Breakfast it was not clear how evidence from South Africa would translate to the UK as we have a highly vaccinated population.

He added: “How it’s likely to spread in the UK still uncertain, but I think the early signs are that it will probably spread quite quickly and probably start outcompeting Delta and become the dominant variant probably within the next weeks or a month or so at least.

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“The big remaining question is actually how harmful it is if you do get Covid with this Omicron variant, and that’s the question that we’re struggling to answer at the moment.”

King’s College London’s Professor Tim Spector, who is the lead on the ZOE Symptom Tracker App, said data from the app suggests about half of all cases are being “missed” because people are not presenting with “classic” Covid symptoms.

He said: “Omicron is probably more, much more similar to the mild variants we’re seeing in people who have been vaccinated with Delta than anything else.

“And so it is going to be producing cold-like symptoms that people won’t recognise as Covid if they just believe the official Government advice.”

Speaking to Times Radio, he added: “We’re estimating that somewhere between one in three and one in four colds are actually due to Covid.

“And so that’s quite a high rate of people that are currently not even bothered to get a lateral flow test, or getting a PCR test, going to parties and spreading it around.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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