Omicron: Dr Tony Hinton says ‘we have to live with it like a flu’
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Since first being reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in November the Covid variant Omicron has spread to all four corners of the globe, establishing itself as the dominant strain in many countries. In the UK, Omicron has led to unprecedented levels of Covid, with 157,758 cases of the virus reported in the latest 24-hour-period. So, what are the symptoms to look out for if you have contracted the variant?
What are the symptoms of Omicron?
Many of the symptoms found within people that have been infected with Omicron are similar to other Covid variants.
Doctors in South Africa – the country which reported the first official case of Omicron – have observed fatigue to be one of the main symptoms that people display.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association noted several other signs from patients she had come across who had the variant.
She told AFP a scratchy throat, mild headache and body aches were also seen in people who tested positive for Omicron.
How long is it before Omicron symptoms appear?
The WHO states in their guidance that: “On average it takes five to six days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however it can take up to 14 days.”
Indeed, the incubation period for the variant is similar to its predecessors – such as the Alpha and Delta strains.
Currently, if a vaccinated person in England has tested positive for Covid or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 days if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.
What have the available studies revealed?
Studies conducted in the UK and South Africa are hopeful and have indicated that fewer people are in need of hospital treatment from Omicron compared with other variants.
For example, research that was conducted in Scotland, in December, analysed Covid cases and the number of people that were being hospitalised at the time.
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Their study found that there was a roughly two-thirds reduction in the number of individuals needing hospital care.
However, this is caveated by the fact that there were very few cases and few at-risk elderly people in the study.
Furthermore, Imperial College London published a paper, in the same month, that found similar findings.
Here, Omicron cases were 15 to 20 percent less likely to result in hospitalisations, according to their results, than Delta, and 40 to 45 percent less likely to need hospital treatment lasting a day or longer.
The reduction in severity is thought to be a combination of the fundamental properties of the Omicron variant as well as high levels of immunity from vaccinations and previous infections.
Nonetheless, the concern remains that even if Omicron is milder, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals.
The latest data regarding UK hospitalisations demonstrates that there were 1,915 people in hospital with Covid – correct as of December 27.
Experts are now waiting to see how social mixing on New Year’s Eve and the return of schools could impact both case numbers and hospitalisations.
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