Omicron: Symptoms of new stealth variant may differ little to Omicron

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Reports to date suggest the Omicron subvariant BA.2 could outrun other strains of Omicron, fanning fears it could spark larger waves COVID-19 in the near future. Studies have given hope that Omicron causes less severe symptoms than its predecessors, but concerns are lingering over the emergence of a new, more robust variant of COVID-19. Scientists have suggested the novel BA.2 substrain may be harder to pick up via conventional testing measures. There is no evidence to suggest the variant may be more dangerous, however.

The UK Health Security Agency has marked BA.2 a “variant under investigation” after early data suggested it may be more transmissible and better to evade vaccines than previous strains.

Reports from the World Health Organisation claims that Omicron, known scientifically as B.1.1.529, has three main subvariants: BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3.The rise of the novel BA.2 strain in Denmark is the latest to raise concerns after the country announced the substring accounted for nearly half of its cases.

As of January 10, there had been 53 recorded cases of the sub-variant in the UK. The latest data released on January 21, however, showed caseload had risen by 700 percent, to a total of 426.

It remains unclear whether sub-variants of Omicron produce a different set of symptoms from their predecessor.

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According to the ZOE Covid study app, the most common symptoms of the Omicron variant are a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat.

But the evidence is growing that Omicron’s symptoms can be wide-ranging symptoms, differing greatly from those of previous strains in some cases.

Reports have described eye problems, loss of appetite, earache, and muscle pain.

Fortunately, however, a large number of studies have confirmed that the Omicron elicits mild illness and that the COVID-19 booster jabs confer good protection against it.

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Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut, a government-run infectious disease research centre, said last Thursday: “Initial analysis shows no differences in hospitalisation for BA.2 compared to BA.1.

“It is expected that vaccines also have an effect against severe illness upon BA.2 infection.”

Commenting on the sub variant’s mutations, the health body added: “Such difference can lead to different properties, for instance, concerning infectiousness, vaccine efficiency, or severity.

“So far there is no information as to whether BA.1 AND BA.2 have different properties.”

Reports in The Guardian show the variant lacks features that allow cases to be distinguished among positive PCR tests, making it harder to track.

It was noted in December that the stealth variant had many mutations in common with standard Omicron, but lacked a specific genetic change that allows PCR tests to be used as a means of identifying probable cases.

Doctor Meera Chand, COVID-19 Incident Director at UKHSA, said: “It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it’s to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on.

“Our continued genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant.”

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