Covid: The ‘uncomfortable’ sign of Omicron BA.5 that ‘doesn’t feel nice’ as UK cases soar

Omicron sub-variant discussed by infectious disease expert

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The number of Britons testing positive for Covid in the UK within seven days rose to 3,760,200 last week. In England, an estimated 3,147,700 people had coronavirus in the week to 14 July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current wave is being attributed to Omicron BA.5, which is proving far more transmissible than its predecessors. The virus is generally resulting in a milder illness but it can still prove unpleasant.

That’s the verdict of Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa.

Speaking to Fortune back in May, he provided a mixed picture of the virus.

On the one hand, “I haven’t seen early symptoms of respiratory distress, the major Covid-specific symptom that makes this disease so dangerous”, the doc said.

However, “it doesn’t feel nice, but there’s less chance of dying”, Doctor Sigal said.

One of the telltale symptoms of the new subvariant he singled out was “malaise”.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines malaise as a “general feeling of being ill or having no energy, or an uncomfortable feeling that something is wrong, especially with society, and that you cannot change the situation”.

Other symptoms include fever and loss of smell, Doctor Signal said.

Research published since slightly conflict with his initial findings. 

People with an Omicron infection are more likely to have a sore throat and are less likely to experience loss of smell, compared with Delta.

That’s one of the key findings to come out of the largest worldwide population studies into how the symptoms of Omicron compare with those of Delta.

For the study, published on the 7th April in The Lancet, researchers looked at symptoms of 62,002 vaccinated participants in the UK from the ZOE COVID Study App who tested positive between June 1 to November 27, 2021, when Delta was dominant, as well as from December 20, 2021–January 17, 2022, when Omicron was dominant.

The findings show that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms was significantly shorter (6.87 days versus 8.89 days), and participants were less likely to be hospitalised with the Omicron variant compared with the Delta variant.

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