Omicron symptoms: What do we know about the new subvariants?

Current concerns are being raised about the seemingly inexorable cycle of Covid infections caused by the current coronavirus omicron variant.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
08 July 2022 Friday 16:20
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Omicron symptoms: What do we know about the new subvariants?

Current concerns are being raised about the seemingly inexorable cycle of Covid infections caused by the current coronavirus omicron variant. This virus is dominated currently by subvariants BA.4 & BA.5.

Experts are still uncertain about which variant of the omicron virus is the most effective. However, they have a better understanding of how it affects those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated as well as those who have had Covid cases in the past.

The original type of the omicron virus caused milder symptoms for most people (at least those who have had their Covid vaccines updated), and was similar to the common cold.

Doctors say that the symptoms of the BA.4 or BA.5 subvariants are largely similar to the earlier variant.

"The BA.5 has not proved to be too different from previous omicron waves," Dr. Bernard Camins, New York's medical director for infection prevention at Mount Sinai Health System, said. "We know it's more contagious."

Dr. Roy Gulick, the chief of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine and and NewYork-Presbyterian, said typical symptoms of the omicron subvariants include:

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The original omicron variant was distributed at dizzying speeds across the U.S. last winter. However, there were less cases of loss of taste or smell than with the alpha and delta versions. Some doctors have noted that the symptom has returned with the introduction of BA.4 or BA.5.

The omicron variant might have appeared milder during winter Covid waves, but that could be a reflection on the sick groups: both the young and healthy as well as the fully vaccinated.

"It is evident that if you are vaccinated, especially if you have had a booster," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee said this year.

For people who have been vaccinated but have not had boosters, typical symptoms include more coughing, more fever and more fatigue than for those who have received extra doses, said Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

To protect against the waning immunity to vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people over 50 get a second Covid booster shot.

BA.5 is contagious and appears to avoid the body's immune system. This makes people more susceptible to reinfection with Covid.

Camins of Mount Sinai stated that "previous infections don't guarantee protection anymore."

Experts say that reinfections will be less severe than those caused by previous infections.

Evidence has shown that the omicron variation tends to not burrow as deeply into the lungs than previous variants. The University of Hong Kong posted an online study that found that the omicron variant can replicate more quickly higher up in the respiratory system, despite being less severe in the lungs.

It may behave more like bronchitis rather than pneumonia in this way, according to Dr. Hugh Cassiere who is the director of critical care services at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital, Long Island, New York.

Acute bronchitis patients are usually not short of breath. He said that they tend to cough up sputum. "Patients suffering from pneumonia are more tired than those with bronchitis. They tend to feel short of breath.

The CDC conducted a small study and found that people who have had Covid may experience fewer symptoms after being infected again with the omicron variant.

However, people cannot rely solely on symptoms to diagnose an illness. Anyone with symptoms similar to flu symptoms should get tested by a doctor.

According to the CDC, the time taken for infected people to show symptoms after exposure to the omicron variant is less than that of previous variants. It takes approximately three days for them to get sick.

Although more research is required, it is scientifically reasonable that a highly contagious viral variant like the Omicron would require a shorter incubation time. Its ultimate goal is to infect as many people possible as fast as possible.

Dr. Anita Gupta is an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a critical care physician. "That's why spread is occurring at an even faster pace," she said. It is possible that the incubation time could be shorter or longer depending upon a variety of factors, such as age and underlying health conditions, and vaccination status. There is no set time frame.

"A lot of these patients are not having the symptoms for the 10 to 12 days that I saw when there were no vaccinations," said Dr. Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief at the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine.

Sharma observed that symptoms are generally shorter and less severe in those who have been vaccinated than in those who have not.

The omicron version is also more convenient for those who have been vaccinated. Hospital stays and emergency rooms are typically shorter for those who have received the vaccine.

Sharma stated, "What I can say is that patients who are not vaccinated are certainly our sicker patients." These patients are more likely than others to be admitted to the ICU. These are the patients who are most likely to be admitted at the hospital.

Ryan Maves, an infectious disease and critical care physician at Wake Forest School of Medicine, North Carolina, said that the vast majority of Covid patients he treats in the ICU are not vaccinated.

Schaffner of Vanderbilt recommended that anyone infected by the virus should be tested within 72 hours.

"If you have been exposed, and you are now asking yourself: "When should I get tested?" He said that it was best to wait at least three working days before you find out if your results are positive.

The CDC recommends that you get tested if you know that you have been exposed to Covid.

While much remains to be known about the omicron variant, experts believe it could cause long-term Covid even in mild cases. British researchers discovered that the omicron variant was less likely to cause long Covid symptoms as delta. However, all 41,361 adults who reported their Covid symptoms via a smartphone app had been vaccinated.

Long-term symptoms may include severe fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, and other problems that can last for months. This was the first wave of the pandemic and continued through the second wave.

Research has shown that vaccinations can significantly reduce the risk of long-term Covid.

According to the CDC, the BA.5 omicron-subvariant accounted in excess of 54% of all Covid cases in the country as of July 2. BA.4 is responsible for 17% of the sampled cases.

Gulick stated that the BA.5 subvariant is more easily transmissible and people should "re-engage with some of the prevention strategies we recommended earlier." It is acceptable to wear masks indoors and in crowds.

Gulick stated that there is no evidence to suggest that BA.5 and other known subvariants of omicron omicron viruses are "more aggressive than the others."

He said that it is much easier to catch than other viruses so people need to be vaccinated.

"That's our best protection."

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