From Delta to Omicron: Symptoms that were common with different variants – Times of India

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COVID is to stay here for sometime and we should not let our guard down. Behavioral practices should not be compromised however less may be the infection rate. The three proven ways to keep COVID from wreaking havoc are: vaccination, following COVID protocols and knowing the symptoms at once. India reported 22,270 fresh COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, a 14% decline than the previous day, taking the tally to 4,28,02,505, the health ministry said on Saturday. This alarming data calls for the need to be more aware of the situation.
So far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed five variants of concerns of the coronavirus: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron. These variants are more aggressive than the other variants. The Omicron variant is the dominant strain of the virus currently and is the major reason behind COVID infection these days. There are two variants of interest: Lambda and Mu.

In each variant the symptoms of the infection and the subsequent degree of infection varies. However there are certain common symptoms of the COVID disease which have been found across all the infections caused by different variants.

As per the data released by national health agencies, the common symptoms of COVID are fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
The symptoms that a human body shows after being exposed to the virus depends on the way the body’s immunity reacts to the pathogen.
The classic symptoms of COVID infection include fever, cough, fatigue, and loss of sense of smell and taste. Severe symptoms linked to the disease are shortness of breath, chest pain, low blood oxygen levels in the body and difficulty in breathing.
Most of the COVID symptoms overlap with the symptoms of common cold and flu and this has been seen in the infection caused by all variants of the virus.
Alpha variant is the first variant of the coronavirus to be listed under variants of concern. Also known as the B.1.1.7 variant, it was first found in the UK in September 2020 and is therefore also known as the UK variant. According to a report by the Imperial College London the common symptoms observed during the alpha variant infection were chills, loss of appetite, headache and muscle aches. This variant was associated with higher hospitalisation in the UK.

The variant, also known as B.1.351, was found in South Africa in May 2020. A July 2021 report of the Telegraph says, “There is no indication that symptoms of the beta variant are any different to other Covid variants. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than the original Wuhan virus but it is not thought to lead to more severe disease.” This variant was responsible for the second wave of COVID in South Africa. Experts say, the spread of this variant was outpaced by the most severe one, the Delta variant.

Severe of all the variants, the Delta variant, wreaked havoc worldwide, including India during the second wave. The B.1.617.2 variant was found in India in October 2020. The most severe complication observed with this variant was dropping of oxygen level. Loss of smell and taste was also highly seen in infected people during this Delta wave of COVID infection. Healthcare system in the country had crumbled down during April-May in 2021 in India due to Delta infection.

The B.1.1.529 or the Omicron variant is the dominant strain currently. It was found in November 2021 in various countries. The symptoms are said to be mild and less cases of hospitalisation have been seen since its emergence. While many say the virus is mildly aggressive, many experts have linked vaccination to the reduced risk of the infection. The common symptoms are runny nose, sore throat, headache, body pain and fever.

The only effective way to stop coronavirus from infecting us is by covering nasal and mouth areas with a clean mask. One should avoid touching the eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands. Masks cut down the risk of getting COVID infected by a large percentage. The degree of protection masks offer ranges from 20% till 95%, as per reports, depending on the build of the mask.

All the vaccines that have been developed and approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for usage provide protection against the disease. Even when doubts were there for the Omicron infection, WHO had clarified that the vaccines protect people from the severity of the infection. Also, during the Omicron wave, less cases of hospitalisations and severe cases were seen in COVID infected people.
Vaccination along with booster doses are essential for protection against COVID.
“The more people who are unvaccinated and infected, the more chances there are for mutations to occur. Limiting the spread of the virus through maintaining COVID-19 safeguards (mask wearing, physical distancing, practicing hand hygiene and getting vaccinated) gives the virus fewer chances to change. It also reduces the spread of more infectious variants, if they do occur,” says Stuart Ray, M.D., vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics, John Hopkins Medicine..
There has been no medical clarification on this. But going with what researchers and experts have found, new variants are not likely to bring new symptoms; though the post-COVID symptoms may get severe at times depending on the immunity and comorbidity of the patient.

“There is no demonstration yet that these variants are biologically different in ways that would require any change in current recommendations meant to limit spread of COVID-19,” says Ray in response to if additional precautions are required for new variants.
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