Stealth Omicron symptoms: 2 telltale signs of infection from BA.2 Covid variant not to ignore

Rising Covid infections have largely been fuelled by the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron which now accounts for the majority of cases across the UK

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Covid infections are “high and rising” across the UK and hospital admissions are expected to increase over the next fortnight, England’s chief medical officer has warned.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty said that the virus is causing pressure in the NHS, but the high rates of transmission are fortunately not translating into intensive care cases and deaths.

Rising Covid infections have largely been fuelled by the BA.2 sub-variant (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)Rising Covid infections have largely been fuelled by the BA.2 sub-variant (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)
Rising Covid infections have largely been fuelled by the BA.2 sub-variant (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

The rising cases have been fuelled by various factors, including increased social mixing following the recent easing of restrictions, but largely by the new BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, which now accounts for the majority of infections across the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The strain, also known as “Stealth Omicron”, has a faster rate of transmission than the original Omicron variant, but it is not thought to cause more severe illness.

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist, Professor Adrian Esterman said: "Omicron BA.2 is about 1.4 times more infectious than BA.1.

“The basic reproduction number (R0) for BA.1 is about 8.2, making R0 for BA.2 about 12.

“This makes it pretty close to measles, the most contagious disease we know about.”

What are the key symptoms of stealth Omicron?

The Omicron variant of Covid has proven to cause a more wide ranging array of symptoms than the original coronavirus strain, which can make it more difficult to spot.

However, data from the ZOE Covid Study has identified two common telltale signs that could be an early indication of infection from the stealth omicron strain.

Dizziness has been found to be prominent among those infected with the BA.2 sub-variant, and this may come and go throughout the day.

Another common symptom that is commonly being reported is a runny nose.

Symptoms of the stealth variant are thought to manifest more quickly than previous strains,  appearing within two days of being infected rather than four, so it is worth getting tested if you experience either of these signs.

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid study, said: “One in 20 new cases had this variant last week, and as it’s doubling every few days this should predominate within a month.

"The ZOE data has also seen more confirmed reinfections in recent weeks with around 7% of new symptomatic cases having previously tested positive, suggesting a natural infection with Delta may not offer much protection."

What other symptoms should I look for?

As well as dizziness and a runny nose, fatigue has also been widely reported among people infected with Omicron, particularly in the early stages.

Extreme tiredness will usually last between five and eight days, but it can take longer to pass in some cases.

Sufferers have reported feeling ‘wiped out’, despite getting plenty of rest or having a good night’s sleep.

The ZOE Covid study also recommends looking for the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Persistent cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you feel unwell or have coronavirus symptoms, you should take a lateral flow test or book a PCR test.

If you test positive, you are not legally required to self-isolate if you live in England or Northern Ireland, but government guidance still recommends that you stay at home for at least five days.

People who test positive for Covid in Scotland should self-isolate for 10 days, but can stop on the seventh day providing they record two negative lateral flow tests consecutively.

In Wales, those who test positive for must self-isolate for five full days, but this will cease being law on 28 March.

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