OMICRON: The ‘unusual’ COVID-19 symptoms we all need to look out for

Staff writers with wiresThe West Australian
A woman wearing a face mask holds a child on her back on a crowded footpath in Pretoria.
Camera IconA woman wearing a face mask holds a child on her back on a crowded footpath in Pretoria. Credit: Denis Farrell/AP

While scientists race to understand the degree of danger posed by the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, countries across the world are closing their borders.

But there might be some good news.

Symptoms of the new variant, according to a South African doctor who was among the first in the world to treat patients infected with the variant, appear to be milder than what we have come to know from Delta and Alpha. And, most cases could be treated at home.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that unlike with Delta, patients had not reported loss of smell or taste and there had been no major drop in oxygen levels with the new variant.

Overwhelming fatigue was the main symptom among the patients to test positive to Omicron at her busy Pretoria practice.

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” said Dr Coetzee, who is the South African Medical Association chair told The Telegraph.

About two dozen of her patients, mostly healthy men - half of them unvaccinated - have tested positive the variant.

On November 18, when four family members all tested positive for COVID-19 with complete exhaustion, she informed the country’s vaccine advisory committee.

Despite Dr Coetzee’s first-hand insights, the World Health Organisation says it’s not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.

It has released a statement saying there is “currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants”.

“Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.

“All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key”.

WHO says the level of severity of Omicron “will take days to several weeks” to determine.

The top US infectious disease official, Dr Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday it would take about two weeks to have more definitive information about Omicron.

The White House said Fauci believed existing vaccines “are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID”.

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