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Omicron variant: The ‘scratchy’ symptom that’s showing up in people infected with Omicron


The world is currently wrestling with two questions that have profound implications for both public health and the economy: How bad will the new variant ultimately prove and what is the most proportionate response? Stock markets in affected industries have already slumped as fears take hold. Much is still to be learned about the new variant, such as the nature of its transmissibility and severity.

However, doctor Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, has helped to advance our collective understanding.

Doctor Coetzee started seeing patients in November with “unusual symptoms” that were slightly different from what she saw among COVID-19 patients infected with the delta variant.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, she provided a picture of the symptoms to expect.

One distinctive feature was related to the throat. The symptom was reported in a male patient she was treating.

The patient reported experiencing “not really a sore throat but a scratchy throat”, she said.

Another distinguishable feature was the absence of the “classic” symptoms that have come to be associated with previous strains.

According to Doctor Coetzee, the patient did not experience a loss of smell and taste.

The NHS has consistently stated that a loss of smell and/or taste is a hallmark of COVID-19, although research elsewhere has challenged this view.

Research conducted by the ZOE COVID Study, which has been tracking the movement of the virus throughout the pandemic, has called for a more expansive list to be published that’s more reflective of the data.

The research shows there’s more to Covid than the three classic symptoms, but many people remain unaware of all the symptoms we should be looking out for.

As the team behind the study pointed out, this discrepancy leaves people at risk of wrongly believing they have a cold, when in fact they could have Covid.

In addition to loss of smell and taste, the ZOE COVID Study says to look out for the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Persistent cough
  • Fever.
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