What are the symptoms of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant?

Cases of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant continue to rise at breakneck speed in Quebec. The most recent studies seem to indicate that the symptoms related to this variant are quite similar to those above, with a few details. Uncertainty still hangs over its severity; in the meantime, it is better to be attentive to the slightest signal from the body, say the experts.

The most common symptoms are therefore: sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, headache, general muscle pain and severe fatigue.

During the first waves of COVID-19, loss of smell and taste was a hallmark of the disease, with up to 48% of patients who declared it. However, a distinction is beginning to emerge for Omicron, since this proportion would now be less according to a study carried out in Norway, too small to be generalized.

The new Omicron variant even infects fully vaccinated people, a major difference from Delta. Patients therefore often face it with a form of immunity, which “certainly influences” the symptoms, notes virologist Benoit Barbeau.

It remains “much more contagious”, recalls for its part the Dre Caroline Quach-Thanh.

The incubation period of the virus would also be shorter. The symptoms “come very quickly,” continues the microbiologist-infectious disease specialist at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center.

The incubation time, which is the time between when you are exposed to the virus and when the first symptoms appear, could be as little as three days according to some studies. “The viral load looks pretty high because our rapid tests detect the infection in the first few days,” says Dr. Quach-Thanh.

“So even a small itchy throat should prevent you from going out to dinner or being around people at greater risk,” she insists.

Another symptom to potentially add to the previous list would be night sweats, according to the experience of South African doctors, among the first to have detected this variant. For the moment, however, no major research has confirmed or denied this link with Omicron.

There is not yet conclusive data on whether the Omicron variant will cause more or less long-lasting COVID in people with the disease. It is even still difficult at this stage to understand whether vaccines protect or not against this form of the disease.

What to do ?

The first symptoms, if they remain mild, can be difficult to differentiate from a simple cold, admit the two specialists.

This is the conclusion of the largest private health insurer in South Africa. who published their data last week, as well as a study based on real cases in London. The latter’s lead author, Tim Spector, also calls on governments to adapt their message: “We need to educate people, go back to basics and say if you have symptoms that look like a cold, you better stick to it. away from others. “

The first thing to do is to isolate yourself and take a test, recalls Mr. Barbeau. “Even if your rapid test is negative, but you experience these symptoms, isolate yourself,” recommends this professor at UQAM.

With screening centers overwhelmed, public health authorities in Montreal and across the province are first asking for a rapid screening test at home.

If you don’t have a quick test, your best bet is to make an appointment at a screening center, or if not, to try your luck at a walk-in clinic.

Risks of hospital saturation

Even if the symptoms seem for the moment a little less virulent, the most recent projections of the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) do not exclude an exceeding of the capacities of the health system.

“While you don’t think Omicron is more ‘bad’ than Delta, it’s the amount of infected world that’s causing the problem. Even if it was 0.0001% of infected people who end up in hospital, out of 1 million cases, it will be a lot of people, ”says Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh.

“We need to have a certain volume of cases to be able to establish whether there is a statistically significant decrease in the severity of symptoms in our own population,” also explains Benoit Barbeau.

This researcher remains optimistic, however: “We will soon have better knowledge on when and how to use booster doses. [de vaccin] and a battery of treatment and possible interventions to better act on symptoms and hospitalizations. “

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