Omicron: SAGE warning calls for policy decisions 'sooner'
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The Omicron variant is surging across the UK, with a further 122,186 new cases of COVID-19 recorded on Friday. The highly transmissible variant is generating crucial insights as it sweeps through the population. Much of this data is being uploaded to the ZOE Symptom Tracker App, which provides real-time updates on the variant from millions of users.
The ZOE data suggests the traditional symptoms seen in previous waves are no longer prevalent.
In fact, focussing on them will mean cases of Omicron will slip through the cracks.
That’s the ominous assessment from Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the ZOE Symptom Tracker App.
The “classic” symptoms associated with the Delta variant and its predecessors have been largely supplanted by cold-like symptoms, he explained.
A fever and a new continuous cough are no longer dominant, noted Prof Spector.
The following symptoms are more likely to occur with Omicron:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
What’s also “slightly different” with Omicron is that users are reporting loss of smell or taste less often, said Prof Spector.
Data out of South Africa pointed to this trend and data generated by the ZOE app confirms that it does occur but it’s less common, he reported.
“Fever was slightly less and cough was about the same,” the ZOE lead scientist noted.
According to Prof Spector, “it makes no sense at all” why the Government guidelines have not been updated to reflect this evolving picture.
Waiting for those traditional symptoms to surface before getting tested is therefore ill-advised because cases of Omicron will be missed, he warned.
In fact, as the ZOE professor pointed out, there are 20 possible symptoms of COVID-19.
Many months ago, the ZOE Covid Study helped to identify over 20, mostly mild, cold-like symptoms.
How worried should we be?
The Omicron variant’s increased transmissibility means the NHS could still come under extreme pressure despite the ongoing vaccination effort.
However, initial data is encouraging.
People catching Omicron are 50 percent to 70 percent less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, the UK Health Security Agency’s early findings suggest.
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