The Omicron variant – or B.1.1.529 – which has been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been spreading rapidly, despite the symptoms being mild.
Speaking to ETHealthworld, doctors informed that the common symptoms of Omicron variant were sore throat, fatigue, joint pain, cold and headaches which are similar to that of the Delta variant. Meanwhile, loss of smell and taste, breathing difficulty or a drop oxygen saturation which were common signs of Delta, were not seen in the case of the Omicron.
Shedding more light on the same, Dr Abhishek Subhash, Consultant Internal Medicine at Bhatia Hospital, said that, “Omicron has mild symptoms, which means the patients have sore throats. They have mild fever of only 100-101 F which lasts only for about 3-4 days. There are generally no breathing difficulties and oxygen saturation also remains above 95.”
Informing that there is no significant difference in the symptom profile of Delta and Omicron variants, Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD and Consultant – Pulmonology and Lung Transplant Physician, at Manipal Hospital, elucidated about a very significant marker about Omicron. He said, “Delta announces its presence physically. There is body pain and fever. Omicron is always asymptomatic. The distinguishing feature is that Omicron affects the upper respiratory tract, there is no shortness of breath or any severity associated with Delta.”
Since the Delta and Omicron variants are so interrelated in terms of symptoms, it is very important for us to know that headaches are a tell-tale sign of Omicron. Dr Pritha Nayyar, Respiratory Specialist, at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, informed us that, “The main symptoms are runny nose, sore throat, fever, body ache and headache. Headache is more prominent in Omicron patients. We know that it is an Omicron case when there is an absence of the S gene. It mostly affects the upper respiratory tract.”
Speaking about the difference between the two variants, Dr Sushrut Ganpule, Consultant Pulmonologist, Jupiter Hospital Pune, expressed how difficult it is to differentiate between the two. “It is very difficult to know if the case is Omicron or Delta. Genome sequencing is very expensive and is only being carried out if the patient is travelling from another affected country or has been in contact with other Omicron patients.”
He also added that COVID-19 is a very difficult infection to treat as it affects the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and since all organs are dependent on each other, it leads to multi-organ dysfunction.
With the severity of disease being mild, people all around the world are letting their guard down, which is resulting in the virus spreading faster. This could lead to a massive surge in COVID cases as we are witnessing now with the numbers reaching record highs.
Dr Mysore also elucidated that we should observe COVID-appropriate behaviour because Omicron is highly transmissible and that “double masking is a must, and the masks should be snug fitting. You should wear the N95 mask and a surgical mask over it, so there are no gaps for the virus to enter.”
As per any illness, the elderly are more affected by the virus, and Dr Mysore suggests that we ‘reverse quarantine’, “As long as the virus is running around, we should reverse quarantine and stay away from elderly people and people who are immunocompromised. We should not think that we have a sore throat because of a cold drink or because we stayed out in the rain. We have to be very cautious.”