Covid Omicron variant: signs of coronavirus strain may be different from ‘classic’ symptoms, experts warn

A number of symptoms have been identified in those with the Omicron variant of Covid

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The Omicron Covid variant is continuing to spread across the UK, but symptoms of the coronavirus strain could be different than usual, according to experts.

Professor Tim Spector, from the Covid Zoe app, said that their data suggests that about half of all cases at the moment of Delta are being “missed” due to people infected with the virus not presenting with the “classic” Covid symptoms of a fever, new and persistent cough, and a loss or change of smell or taste.

Prof Spector 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.”

According to the NHS website, the main symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

What other symptoms have been identified with the Omicron variant?

A number of other symptoms have been identified in those with the Omicron Covid variant.

These include:

  • Fatigue - extreme tiredness has been linked to the new Omicron variant, as well as previous strains. It is not known how long fatigue can last after Omicron infection, but the symptom usually lasts between five to eight days with other variants, although some people can still feel tired for several weeks.
  • Body aches and pains - as with the original coronavirus strain, patients infected with Omicron have reported experiencing body aches and pains. This symptom has usually only lasted a few days with other variants.
  • Headache - headaches are another commonly reported symptom of Omicron infection. Researchers have previously found that people with coronavirus tend to have moderate to severely painful headaches, or feel pulsing or stabbing pains.
  • Scratchy throat - some of those with the Omicron variant have described having a ‘scratchy throat’ and no cough when infected with the Omicron variant, which is slightly different to a sore throat caused by other strains. 
  • Runny nose - a runny nose has been linked to Omicron infection, although this could easily be mistaken for a symptom of the common cold or flu. 
  • Sneezing - this symptom could also easily be confused as a sign of cold or flu, but in some cases it could be an indication of Omicron Covid-19 infection. 

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said he thought the Omicron variant would take over from Delta in the UK as the dominant variant of coronavirus “within a matter of weeks”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we can now say that this variant is spreading faster in the UK than the Delta variant at the same time, and that’s something that I think was unclear until very recently.

“I am pretty confident that it’s going to take over (Delta) probably in a matter of weeks.”

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