Omicron October 2022: Possible Omicron Symptoms

As of the week ending November 12, 2022, BA.5 represent an estimated 29.7% of the SARS-CoV-2 variants currently circulating in the United States, according to the CDC. The BQ.1 Omicron subvariant strain and a descendant called BQ.1.1 represent an estimated 44.2% across the country.

There is no evidence yet that BQ.1 is linked with increased severity compared with the circulating Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, European officials said, but warned it may evade some immune protection, citing laboratory studies in Asia.

There is no evidence yet that BQ.1 is linked with increased severity compared with the circulating Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, European officials said, but warned it may evade some immune protection, citing laboratory studies in Asia.

Credit: CDC.gov

omicron variant

What are the top omicron symptoms to look out for?

As of right now, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 do not seem to have symptoms that distinguish them from previous COVID-19 variants, says William Schaffner, M.D., infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “So far, they don’t seem to produce more severe disease, although it’s early,” he says. “There’s nothing distinctive about their symptoms that would tell you that you have one variant over another.”

According to the US CDC (updated August 11, 2022), people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

Possible symptoms include:
  1. Fever or chills
  2. Cough
  3. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  4. Fatigue (Tiredness)
  5. Muscle or body aches
  6. Headache
  7. New loss of taste or smell
  8. Sore throat
  9. Congestion or runny nose
  10. Nausea or vomiting
  11. Diarrhea
Because of Omicron's shortened incubation period, those who are infected will begin to show symptoms sooner, if they're symptomatic. Most of the time, particularly because Omicron tends to be less severe, a case may look a lot like the common cold, or even allergies.

"As your body starts recognizing the fact that it's been infected, your immune system will start taking actions, and those actions are those symptoms that you feel: fatigue, headache, malaise," said Dr. Adalja. People may not test positive during these initial symptoms, simply because there isn't enough virus in the body to show up on a test (though there is enough to make you feel unwell), he said.

Though symptoms of Omicron aren't drastically different from those associated with the Delta variant, they are manifesting differently, Pia MacDonald, PhD, MPH, an infectious disease epidemiologist at RTI International, told Health. The most commonly-reported symptoms with the original Omicron variant were cough, fatigue, headache, congestion, and runny nose, according to the CDC.

Research published in April 2022 in The Lancet also found that sore throat and hoarse voice were consistently more prevalent with Omicron infections than with Delta.

Meanwhile, loss of taste and smell, which was a common symptom with previous variants, is less likely to occur with Omicron. According to a May 2022 study published in the journal Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, compared to rates of smell and taste loss during the early phase of the pandemic in 2020 before variants were identified, chances of smell and taste loss were just 17% for omicron, 44% for delta and 50% for the alpha variant.

And while some reports say gastrointestinal symptoms are also more common with Omicron than previous variants, evidence from the ZOE COVID Study suggests GI issues were just as prevalent with Alpha and Delta.

Researchers in Norway conducted a study interviewing 111 out of 117 guests to a party on 26 November 2021 where there was an Omicron outbreak. 

Of the group interviewed, 66 had definitive cases of Covid and 15 had possible cases of the virus.

Of the 111 participants, 89 per cent had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine and none had received a booster shot.

According to the findings published in the infectious disease and epidemiology journal Eurosurveillance, there were eight key symptoms experienced by the group of fully-vaccinated partygoers. These were: 
  1. a persistent cough, 
  2. runny nose, 
  3. fatigue, 
  4. sore throat, 
  5. headache, 
  6. muscle pain, 
  7. fever and 
  8. sneezing.
The study found that coughs, runny noses and fatigue were among the most common symptoms in the vaccinated individuals while sneezing and fever were least common.

Public health experts also added nausea to this list of symptoms in vaccinated people who have contracted the Omicron variant.

Although the vaccine protects against the more serious risks of the virus, it is still possible to contract Covid even if you have both jabs and a booster shot.

Take a Test

Between 48 and 72 hours after potential COVID exposure or at the first sign of any symptoms, people should take either a rapid antigen or PCR test. “There should be a very low threshold for testing yourself to see whether you have COVID or whether you have something else,” says Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. COVID can look very like a cold, influenza or allergies, but the treatments for each are different.

PCR tests are more sensitive but harder to get, and taking a rapid antigen test at home usually suffices, the experts say. If the first test is negative, people should wait two days (behaving cautiously in the meantime) and take another one as Myers did. If it is COVID, the viral load will increase in that time. “Nothing in life is perfect, nor are the rapid antigen tests, but they’re pretty darn good at picking up contagious levels of virus,” says Lucy McBride, a practicing primary care doctor in Washington, D.C. (Lists of free test locations are available on the Test to Treat locator Web site provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

When people test positive, it is a good idea for them to call a primary care physician if they have one. Doctors can provide guidance on treatment and update medical histories. They will also report the result to public health authorities so that it is included in case counts. At a minimum, people should track the date that symptoms began and the date of a positive test.

Over-the-Counter Help

Most people who get COVID will be just fine at home. “If you’re vaccinated and boosted and generally healthy, people do very well,” McBride says. Over-the-counter medications will not treat COVID directly but can help manage symptoms. Doctors recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) to bring down fevers and relieve achiness. Early in the pandemic, there were reports that ibuprofen made COVID worse, but those have not been substantiated. NSAIDs are only intended to be taken for short periods, however, because they have more side effects than acetaminophen, and they are not safe for everyone. People who take other medications should consult with a doctor before taking NSAIDs. Antihistamines or cold medications such as DayQuil can be used to relieve congestion and cough.

All over-the-counter medications should be taken as needed and not beyond recommended dosage instructions (some cold medicines already include acetaminophen). “The dose and frequency really depend on the patient’s underlying health conditions and should be discussed with the person’s doctor,” McBride says.

Getting enough rest is critical, as is drinking enough fluids, which prevent dehydration and reduce cough. 

Having a pulse oximeter at home would also be useful to calculate the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood without having to draw a blood sample. If oxygen levels fall below 95 per cent, that would be a sign to visit the hospital.

Thermometers, tissues and hand sanitizer are other supplies often recommended to keep at home while experiencing a COVID-19 infection. Finally, it won’t hurt to take vitamin supplements (read details below).

Concerns about immunity and monoclonal antibodies

According to Assistant Professor Yunlong Richard Cao at BIOPIC, Peking University:

"...BQ.1.1 escapes Evusheld and bebtelovimab, making all clinically available antibody drugs ineffective."

At-Home Treatments

Always consult your trusted medical professional before you take any medication or supplement. You can find a listing of doctors who can prescribe necessary home isolation medications on Find a Provider post. 

There are many COVID-19 treatment protocols out there on the internet. We have reviewed many protocols and believe the FLCCC I-CARE protocol is one of the easiest and effective protocols to follow. 

Most of the component treatments in the I-CARE protocol have various mode of actions and may not be affected by the changes in the Omicron variant and subvariants' spike protein.

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