If you notice pain here, it may be an Omikron symptom, doctors warn! Given the spread of Omikron, patients report this unusual sign of COVID.
In less than two months, Omikron has swept the world, bringing the number of coronavirus cases worldwide to more than 300 million. According to health officials, the new variant is now responsible for more than 95 percent of new cases in the U.S. alone, and cases are exploding in Europe as well. As Omicron spreads across the country, it’s easy to worry that you’ve caught it – but you need to be aware of all the variant’s characteristic symptoms. While cough and shortness of breath used to be telltale signs of COVID, many doctors now warn that COVID symptoms have evolved with the virus. Read on to find out which aches and pains could actually be a sign of Omicron infection.
These pains may be a symptom of the Omicron variant
If you are experiencing new, unexplained pain in your back, it could be a sign of COVID. New data from the ZOE Covid Study app has shown that lower back pain is one of eight new symptoms of the Omikron variant, The Telegraph reports. This sign was first linked to the latest variant of the virus by doctors in South Africa. They reported that Omicron patients they treated frequently experienced muscle pain that manifested as lower back pain (The Washington Post).
This could be because Omicron affects the body differently
In December, Angelique Coetzee, a South African physician and one of the first to report Omicron, told MSNBC that she believes this symptom could be due to the new variant attacking the musculoskeletal system first, causing pain to muscles, bones, joints and ligaments. “People tell us they went to bed last night [and say that] they felt warm and cold during the night, [and wake up with] body aches, chest pain or back pain and fatigue – that’s Omicron,” she told the news outlet.
The White House’s top COVID adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also addressed how differently the new variant manifests in the body. A number of recent studies have shown that the Omicron virus spreads “very poorly in the lungs” and is “less pathogenic in the lungs,” he said at a Jan. 5 news conference.
Doctors say the new variant looks a lot like the common cold
While Omicron is less effective at infecting the lungs, it still seems to do a good job of infecting the upper respiratory tract, making the illness look a lot like a common upper respiratory infection. “A cold and Omicron are indistinguishable, in my opinion,” Dr. Eskild Petersen, a physician at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark and president of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, told The National.
According to the Zoe COVID Study App, the top five symptoms of Omicron are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat. “It’s mainly runny nose, sore throat and stuffy nose,” John Vanchiere, MD, associate director of the Center for Emerging Viral Threats at LSU Health Shreveport, confirmed to NPR. “The cough is milder [than previous variants], if there is a cough at all, and fever seems to be a little less common.”
Some classic COVID symptoms are rarely seen in Omicron infections
In addition to cough and fever, doctors warn that loss of taste and smell are not as common with the Omicron variant. Previous research found that nearly 48 percent of patients with the original COVID strain suffered from loss of smell and 41 percent from loss of taste. However, a small analysis of an Omicron outbreak among vaccinated individuals in Norway found that only 23 percent reported taste loss and only 12 percent reported odor loss.
And some experts believe that the “new” symptoms of Omicron, such as back pain, may simply be more noticeable now that classic COVID symptoms are less common. Dr. Scott Roberts, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine, told NPR that it’s possible doctors and patients are simply paying more attention to these more subtle signs than they did to earlier variants. “A lot of it is probably magnification of these symptoms under the microscope, rather than clear changes,” he said.