Omicron has reportedly caused less severe symptoms than the original COVID-19 variant. Health officials warn that there still are some severe cases that can have long-term health impacts.
Omicron, the infectious and quick spreading variant of COVID-19, has pushed overall infection rates to a new high.
Omicron and its symptoms
Around mid-November 2021, Omicron was first discovered. It is said to cause less severe illness than the Delta variant, but is still dangerous. The majority of the information that has been collected on the Omicron variant and its symptoms has come from observations rather than scientific studies.
The Omicron variant acts differently than other variants of COVID-19. Health experts warn that Omicron should be assumed dangerous until proven otherwise.
In the US, the first case of infection with the Omicron variant appeared in December. Just four weeks after its first appearance, it became the dominant variant.
Associate executive director at The Permanente Medical Group and infectious disease physician, Dr. Stephen Parodi, estimated that Omicron is two times more transmissible than the Delta variant.
Parodi also estimated that Omicron is four times more transmissible than strains that may have been circulating at the beginning of the pandemic. Omicron has been reinfecting those who have already tested positive, those who have received three doses of the vaccine, and the unvaccinated.
Patients that have been infected with Omicron but have been vaccinated or boosted are experiencing very few symptoms, often aligned with those of the common cold. Read more about related symptoms here.
What about Omicron and long haul COVID-19?
Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a worldwide study that found over 40 percent people who recovered from COVID-19 still had long-term effects. Patients who experience new or persistent symptoms four or more weeks after infection are referred to having “long-covid.”
More than 87 percent of people that were hospitalized for COVID-19 had at least one persistent symptom around 60 days after the start of the symptom.
As Omicron continues to infect, hospitals limits are being tested. Beds are filling up quickly and medical staff are being pushed to the side-lines. The majority of individuals who have been vaccinated, are avoiding hospitalization. This is not the case for the unvaccinated.
In December, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Walensky said, “If you are unvaccinated, you are 10 times more likely to be a case and 20 times more likely to be a fatality, [and] you are 17 times more likely to be in the hospital.”
Viral immunology student, Akiko Iwasak, of Yale University said, “People who underestimate Omicron as ‘mild’ are putting themselves at risk of debilitating disease that can linger for months or years.”