(STL.NEWS) As infections of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — continue to spread around the world, there have been reports that symptoms, in some respects, are different from those of Delta variant infections. Do symptoms really differ? What should you look out for?
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On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated a new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, which became known as OmicronTrusted Source.
There have also been some worries that Omicron can bypass the protection conferred by COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer maintains that three doses of its mRNA vaccine are able to neutralize Omicron in laboratory experiments and that two doses may still prevent serious illness following infection with this variant.
What symptoms does Omicron cause?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the possible symptomsTrusted Source of a SARS-CoV-2 infection without specifying a variant. These are:
fever or chills
shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
muscle or body aches
new loss of taste or smell
congestion or runny nose
nausea or vomiting
However, the CDC notes this list is not exhaustive, and people might experience different symptoms or combinations of symptoms. Furthermore, anecdotal reports on social media and other platforms claim that more specific combinations of symptoms characterize Omicron infections.
Does it affect the lungs?
Medical News Today spoke to Dr. David M. Cutler, a family physician at Saint John’s Physician Partners in Santa Monica, CA, to find out more about doctors’ advice regarding symptoms of an Omicron infection.
Dr. Cutler reiterated that symptoms vary and may not stand out in any particular way, compared to signs of infection with previous variants.
“The variety of symptoms seen with Omicron is the same as with other SARS-CoV-2 variants,” he said. “It seems quite notable that people affected by the same variables may experience quite different symptoms. Some get nasal stuffiness, others headache, sometimes body aches, and others get a sore throat.”
However, he noted, “Serious lung infections appear to be less likely with Omicron than [with] prior variants.”
That may be because, unlike other variants, Omicron preferentially infects the upper respiratory tract. This may also be why it seems to cause milder symptoms, according to WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud.
“We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike the other ones, that could cause severe pneumonia,” he says, though cautions that more studies are necessary to confirm this.