Omicron being called a 'mild disease' is 'incorrect' says Whitty
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COVID-19 has proven to be a highly sophisticated threat, spinning off variants with mutational advantages as it has spread. Omicron is the latest trial. The variant has proven to be more transmissible than previous variants and mutations to its spike protein have given it the upper hand against two shots of a Covid vaccine.
The world is on a much stronger footing now, however. Broad swathes of the global population have two layers of immunity: natural and vaccine-induced immunity.
Thankfully, this has meant Omicron has resulted in a much milder illness than Delta and its predecessors.
The symptom profile of COVID-19 has also evolved over time, with the top ranking symptoms being reordered as new variants have come to the fore.
“Back in 2020, it quickly became clear that the original and Alpha versions of the coronavirus caused three very common symptoms – cough, fever and loss of smell – as well as at least 20 others,” wrote Professor Tim Spector, in newsGP.
Professor Spector is the lead scientist on the ZOE Covid Study, which has monitored the movements of the pandemic via millions of app users.
“When Delta appeared, we then noticed a shift in the most frequently reported symptoms,” he noted.
According to the prof, previously common symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever and loss of smell fell down the rankings.
“Cold-like symptoms – including a runny nose, sore throat and persistent sneezing – became more common, along with a headache and cough, particularly in people who had been vaccinated.”
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According to Prof Spector, Omicron appears to be continuing the trend set by Delta.
“It’s causing symptoms that are much more like a regular cold, particularly in people who’ve been vaccinated, and fewer general systemic symptoms, such as nausea, muscle pains, diarrhoea and skin rashes,” he explained.
Prof Spector and his team arrived at this conclusion after conducting an initial analysis of symptom data from positive cases in London.
London was selected due to the higher prevalence of Omicron compared to other regions at the time.
To compare Delta and Omicron, London data was selected from a week where Delta was dominant and compared to the most recent data available.
The initial analysis found no clear differences in the early symptoms (three days after test) between Delta and Omicron.
The top five symptoms reported in the ZOE app were:
- Runny nose
- Fatigue (either mild or severe)
- Sore throat.
Importantly, the ZOE team found that only half of people with Covid had any of the classic three symptoms of fever, cough or loss of sense of smell.
In response to the data, Prof Spector and his team have been urging the UK Government to update its list of symptoms.
The NHS’ official website only highlighted the “classic three” symptoms of Covid, despite the evolving list.
However, “if you or a family member are feeling unwell, there’s a good chance that it could be Covid, especially if you’re snuffling and sneezing a lot”, notes prof Spector.
“You should stay home and get tested to be sure.”
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