What we know about the seriousness of the new variant – NBC Chicago

As the Chicago area expects omicron variant COVID cases to increase in the coming weeks, how can you know if you are infected with the new strain of the virus?

According to the first results of a study from Imperial College London in the UK, there is no evidence that the omicron variant is less severe than the delta variant based on the symptoms reported.

“The study finds no evidence that Omicron has a lower severity than Delta, judged either by the proportion of people who test positive who report symptoms or by the proportion of cases requiring hospital care after infection,” said said a research team led by Professor Neil Ferguson on Friday. in a blog post accompanying the study.

The data included 24 hospitalizations of patients suspected of having the omicron variant, the researchers saying “data on hospitalizations remains very limited at this time.” The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

Although the symptoms were found to be quite mild, the study also estimates that the risk of re-infection with the omicron variant is 5.4 times that of the delta variant.

So what symptoms might suggest that you have the omicron strain of the coronavirus?

Symptoms of COVID linked to the omicron variant were described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm on the new strain. CDC data has shown that the most common symptoms so far are cough, fatigue, stuffiness, and runny nose.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC she started seeing patients around November 18 with “unusual symptoms” that are slightly different from those associated with the delta variant, which is the most virulent strain of the virus to date and dominant globally.

“It actually started with a male patient who was about 33 years old … and he told me he had just [been] extremely tired the last few days and he has body aches and headaches, ”she told the BBC.

The patient did not have a sore throat, she said, but rather a “itchy throat” but no cough or loss of taste or smell – symptoms that have been associated with previous strains. of the coronavirus.

Coetzee said she tested the male patient for COVID, and he was positive, as did her family, then said she saw more patients that day with the same types of symptoms that differed from the delta variant.

Other patients she had seen so far with the omicron variant had also experienced what she described as “extremely mild” symptoms, and she added that her colleagues had noted similar cases.

“What we are seeing clinically in South Africa – and remember I am at the epicenter of where I practice – is extremely gentle, for us. [these are] mild cases. We didn’t admit anyone, I spoke to other colleagues and they give the same picture. “

Here’s a full breakdown of symptoms by variant.

Likewise, in the case of the United States, the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said the person had been vaccinated but had not received a booster and was suffering from “mild symptoms.”

But Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told CNBC that the omicron symptoms reported in South Africa may not be a good predictor of the virulence of the variant in other parts of the world, as the country has a much younger and healthier population than European countries and the United States.

“The thing is, you won’t be able to tell the difference between omicron, delta lambda, simple COVID from the start,” said Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease specialist and chief epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine. . “The flu or even the common rhinovirus causes most of our colds in the winter. You won’t know the difference between these if you just look at your symptoms. For a lot of people, these symptoms overlap. have some parts of the Venn diagram like taste, loss of taste and smell, or the common COVID than those other things, there’s a lot of overlap. You just won’t know, especially at the start of a disease, what kind of disease you have. You have to get tested. “

However, getting tested won’t necessarily tell you if you have the omicron variant, Landon said.

“When you take a COVID test, they’re just looking to see whether or not you have COVID,” she said. “They’re not on what type to determine the exact strain of COVID. You have to do this thing called sequencing, which takes a lot longer. It’s a lot more intensive. You sure can’t get that back in 24 hours, and this is only done by specialized laboratories. “

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