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Covid-19 omicron variant: what are the symptoms of new strain?

Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, first raised the alarm about omicron, which has been designated "of concern" by the WHO.

 A man undergoes a COVID-19 test at the Histopath Diagnostic Specialists pre-departure area at Sydney International Airport on November 28, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
James D. MorganGetty Images

The omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant has been generating headlines in recent days after the new strain of coronavirus first emerged. Scientists fear that the new variant could pose greater risks to global public health than both the alpha and delta variants and many countries have already started to impose fresh restrictions as governments scramble to prevent the spread of the new threat. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, first alerted national authorities over the discovery of omicron and has also laid out the symptomatology of the new variant, describing them as “unusual, but mild.”

Coetzee, a practising GP in Pretoria, noted that among her covid patients many young people of various ethnicities and social backgrounds have been complaining of extreme fatigue. However, none have lost their sense of taste or smell. Among these young people was a six-year-old girl with elevated pulse rate and a very high temperature. “Their symptoms were so mild and so different from those I had treated before,” she told The Telegraph.

According to Coetzee, those infected with the omicron variant are presenting mild symptoms, the most common of which are “muscular pain and tiredness.” These generally only last one or two days, as was the case with her six-year-old patient, Coetzee told RIA Novosti. “Up to now we have observed that patients do not lose their sense of taste or smell. They may present a slight cough, but there are no prominent symptoms. Among those infected, some are being treated at home.”

Unvaccinated most at risk from omicron variant

Coetzee first flagged up the new variant to South African authorities on 18 November when four members of her family tested positive for covid-19. Their only symptoms were crippling exhaustion. In total, Coetzee identified 20 patients with symptoms of the new variant, the majority of them men and half of whom were unvaccinated.

As such, Coetzee issued a warning over vaccination rates, with those who have not had the jab particularly at risk from omicron.

What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a more severe form of the disease,” she told The Telegraph.


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