A new study of early data about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has found that the most common symptoms are akin to the common cold.
The ZOE COVID Symptoms Study, which has been tracking symptoms reported by participants using a smartphone app, reported that the top five symptoms for Omicron are runny nose, headache, fatigue (mild or severe), sneezing, and sore throat. The data were collected between December 3 and 10 in London.
The new strain differs from previous strains, which often brought high fevers, a heavy cough, and the loss of smell. “Hopefully people now recognize the cold-like symptoms which appear to be the predominant feature of Omicron. These are the changes that will slow the spread of the virus,” ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector said in a news release on Thursday.
“Omicron is set to be the dominant strain in the UK by Christmas, and in the New Year cases could hit a peak higher than anything we’ve ever seen before,” Spector said. “In London cases have been rising rapidly, but this will likely slow down soon, as people change their behavior, such as wearing face masks again, cancelling parties and working from home more.”
Spector also offered advice for the holidays. “Ahead of Christmas, if people want to get together and keep vulnerable family members safe, I’d recommend limiting social contact in the run up to Christmas and doing a few Lateral Flow Tests just before the big family gathering. As our latest data shows, Omicron symptoms are predominantly cold symptoms, runny nose, headache, sore throat and sneezing, so people should stay at home as it might well be COVID. We are also seeing two to three times as many mild infections in people with boosters in Omicron areas as we do in Delta variant areas, but they are still very protective and a vital weapon.”
The findings of the U.K. study mirror those of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which studied 43 Omicron cases for a week starting December 1. The CDC found that cough, fatigue, and congestion or runny nose were the most common symptoms among the cases.
And Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairman of the South African Medical Association and the first to diagnose a case of the new Omicron variant, says the symptoms are similar to a cold. “Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries. We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home,” she told Reuters in late November.
The CDC last week put out new predictions on the havoc the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the illness that causes COVID-19, will wreak on the U.S. in the coming weeks, and their predictions are grim.
COVID-19 deaths will soar by 73% to 15,600 a week by January 8 and cases might leap to 1.3 million by Christmas Day, the CDC said. New projections released Wednesday show there will be some 15,600 new COVID deaths a week as of January 8 — more than 2,200 deaths per day. That’s about a 58% jump from the 8,900 deaths currently being recorded each week, which equals nearly 1,300 deaths a day.
The prediction that as many as 1.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with COVID-19 by the week that ends Christmas Day. The CDC also said hospitalizations could soar up to 18,000 by the end of the first week in January.
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