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what we know about omicron virus and common symptoms?

Omicron virus 

A new coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2) variant, known as Omicron (or B.1.1.529), was first identified by scientists in South Africa on November 24.

The latest variant of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is believed to be more transmissible than the already highly transmissible Delta variant. Omicron has already been detected in 106 countries, the WHO has said.

Scientists are also concerned that the variant’s high number of mutations may help it evade vaccinations.

When Delta became the predominant variant, cold-like upper respiratory symptoms became more common, while the loss of taste and smell became less common than in other variants.

With Omicron, some experts have said the symptoms appear to be milder than Delta, while others say it is too soon to confirm.
Omicron virus

Common symptoms of omicron variant

The four most common symptoms of the omicron variant are cough, fatigue, congestion and runny nose, according to a CDC analysis of the first 43 cases investigated in the U.S. 

People with COVID-19 can report a wide range of symptoms, with cough and loss of smell emerging as two frequent indicators of the virus. 

The CDC noted characteristics of the cases described in its analysis may not be generalizable, as the findings might be associated with individual characteristics. Still, early and ongoing research suggests certain variants may produce different symptoms. U.K. researchers tracking self-reported COVID-19 symptom data from the public found the top symptoms changed to headache, sore throat and runny nose this summer after the delta variant gained dominance.

The CDC's list of COVID-19 symptoms includes fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. Asymptomatic infections are also common.

What tests are used to detect Omicron?

Swabs from PCR tests, which are sent to labs for analysis, can show if the variant causing the infection looks like Omicron, Delta or something else.

Fewer than half of UK labs have the required technology to detect suspected Omicron cases. This means that in some areas, it may be detected more quickly than in others.

Confirming that a suspected case is Omicron requires a full genetic analysis, which takes between four and five days.

By looking closely at the genetic material provided though testing, scientists can confirm whether someone is positive with Omicron or the already widely-circulating Delta.

Up to 20% of the swabs from positive test results in the UK each week - around 60,000 cases - are sent for genomic sequencing.

This process doesn't give the full picture but by using those results, scientists are able to estimate what proportion of new cases are the new variant.

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