From nearly every official account based on early data, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is milder, with reports suggesting that the virus is up to 70% less likely to land you in the hospital.
But there may be a new symptom of Omicron, according to one new report.
“Some symptoms are the same or very similar, such as the dry cough, but people are being instructed to keep an eye out for some effects which may seem unusual,” The Mirror reported on Thursday. “One strange effect seems to be affecting people with the new variant and may help point towards the virus if some individuals are asymptomatic.”
The symptom: Loss of appetite.
“Scientists who are part of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study looked at symptom data from positive cases recorded in the research data and compared it with information from early October when Delta was dominant,” wrote the U.K. paper.
“People who contributed to the study reported a loss of appetite as one symptom they experienced. … Said contributors were either confirmed or likely to have had the Omicron variant, suggesting that the loss of appetite symptom is more likely to occur when people have Omicron, rather than the Delta variant,” the Mirror said.
The ZOE study, which has been tracking symptoms reported by participants using a smartphone app, reported that the top five symptoms for Omicron are runny nose, headache, fatigue (mild or severe), sneezing, and sore throat. The data were collected between December 3 and 10 in London.
A recent study also says that while the Omicron variant could infect some 140 million Americans by March, the majority of people who contract the variant might be asymptomatic.
“We are expecting an enormous surge in infections … so, an enormous spread of Omicron,” said Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, according to USA Today. “Total infections in the U.S. we forecast are going from about 40 percent of the U.S. having been infected so far, to having in the next two to three months, 60 percent of the U.S. getting infected with Omicron.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which operates much like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that those who contract Omicron are less likely to become severely ill compared to people who get the Delta variant, according to the data, reports Politico.
“More people are likely to have a mild illness with less serious symptoms — probably in part due to Britain’s large number of vaccinated and previously infected people, and possibly because Omicron may be intrinsically milder,” Politico reported. “Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has previously cautioned against too much optimism based on the initial optimistic signs from South Africa in the past few weeks. However, the UKHSA’s view after studying cases in Britain is that Omicron is indeed usually less severe than Delta.”
But the report included one caveat. “The less good news is that while Omicron seems milder overall, the UKHSA has found it is not necessarily mild enough to avoid large numbers of hospitalizations. The experts have found evidence that for those who do become severely ill, there is still a high chance of hospitalization and death.”