Sat. Jan 29th, 2022

Scientists around the world are scrambling to understand the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, identified last week – its symptoms, severity and contagion.

(Photo Courtesy: Capital Gazette)

Governments have reacted with travel restrictions hoping to contain the spread of the variant, which was first identified in South Africa and has since been reported in nearly a dozen countries. So far, no deaths have been linked to the variant.

Scientists have found Omicron’s mutations could help it evade immunity — whether from vaccination or previous Covid-19 infection – but say more research is needed.

As a result of the new variant’s emergence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday revised its Covid-19 vaccine guidelines to recommend booster doses for all adults age 18 and older.

“Existing vaccines are [still] likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases” of the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement released by the White House on Sunday night.

However, “it will take approximately two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity and other characteristics of the variant,” he said in the statement.

The first patient infected with the Omicron variant, a 33-year-old man in South Africa, developed “unusual symptoms” compared with those of the Delta strain, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, said in a television interview on Sunday.

The patient reported severe fatigue and pain, including a mild headache, for several days prior to testing positive for the virus, she said.

He did not develop a sore throat – but had a “scratchy” throat – and did not experience a cough or loss of taste or smell, Coetzee said.

A sore throat, cough and loss of sense of taste or smell are common symptoms of earlier strains of Covid-19, including the Delta variant, which has been the predominant one in the United States since the spring, according to the CDC.

The Delta variant is also known to cause more severe headaches, runny nose and fever.

“Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms” that may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, CDC said.

The symptoms of Covid-19, regardless of variant, include fever or chills, a cough, fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or a runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

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