The omicron variant has caused waves of COVID-19 infections in the United States, sparking increased concerns and prompting increased mitigation measures across the country.
The strain has taken a firm hold in the United States, accounting for more than 95% of new cases, according to health officials.
“This virus has changed and it is constantly throwing curveballs,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Friday. “As the virus changes, the science changes.”
But what makes omicron unique? And is there a way to distinguish it from other variations?
Unlike previous strains, loss of taste and smell are not reported as common symptoms, according to doctors.
Health officials in South Africa, the first country where a major omicron outbreak occurred, have advised people who suspect they have contracted COVID-19 to watch out for common symptoms like cough, fatigue or fatigue, congestion and runny nose.
As the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly, how quickly can symptoms of the virus appear?
But they note that loss of taste and smell seems to be rare compared to other variants.
In a recent omicron outbreak in Nebraska, five people were re-infected with COVID-19, according to a CDC report. Four of the people experienced a loss of taste or smell during their first infection with the virus, but none reported symptoms during the second infection, according to the report.
Researchers studying an omicron-fueled outbreak at a Christmas party in Norway found that of the dozens who experienced symptoms, 12% reported reduced odor. Twenty-three percent reported reduced taste, according to the study.
Infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Dr. Katherine Poehling said last week that cough, stuffiness, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms.
However, doctors point out that the symptoms are based on early case reports of omicron, not scientific studies.
“Anecdotal reports represent only one person,” Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York School of Public Health, told NBC News. “We have to take them with a grain of salt.”
Studies may reflect only certain segments of the population: young and otherwise healthy, as well as those who are fully immunized.
“It is clear that if you are vaccinated, especially if you have received a booster, omicron tends to produce milder infections,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. .
“What we haven’t seen yet is a substantial body of information on what omicron will do in unvaccinated people,” he added.