As omicron subvariants continue to make up nearly all COVID cases in the United States, and new variants continue to emerge, are the symptoms changing?
According to the latest update from the CDC, the BA.5 lineage of the omicron variant is now the most prevalent strain of the virus in the United States, accounting for more than 88% of recent cases.
The BA.4 subvariant, which began circulating around the same time as BA.5, is still responsible for the second highest number of cases in the United States at 5.3%, but it could soon lose this place in favor of one of its other sublines, with the BA.4.6 strain also responsible for just over 5% of cases, according to CDC estimates.
As more and more cases occur, many are curious about what symptoms typically appear with COVID and how quickly those symptoms can appear.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, early symptoms of COVID-19 usually include fatigue, headache, sore throat or fever. Some patients also experience loss of taste or smell as an early or first symptom.
A study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that fever could be the first, along with two other symptoms. He revealed that the first symptoms of COVID-19 are most likely a fever, followed by a cough and muscle aches. Afterwards, those infected will likely experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Unlike other respiratory illnesses such as MERS and SARS, patients with COVID-19 will likely develop nausea and vomiting before diarrhea, the researchers found.
Digestive symptoms, in some cases, may be the first sign that a person has contracted COVID. They are known to develop early in an infection, with respiratory symptoms possibly following a day later, according to an Emerson Health article.
Still, some symptoms, such as shortness of breath, have become less frequent as the virus continues to mutate.
“In terms of symptoms and what people have, it’s incredibly heterogeneous,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, director of hospital epidemiology and infection control for Cook County Health. “I find that with omicron we know that fever, cough are still the most common – no longer as much shortness of breath as we had with the Wuhan virus, but fever, sore throat and, as I I said, cough.”
While the BA.5 subvariant tends to cause symptoms similar to other COVID variants, Chicago’s top doctor says there may be more focus on upper respiratory issues, as the virus tends to persist in the nasal passages and other parts of the respiratory system above the lungs.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, also said patients also tend to see longer-lasting and more widespread symptoms due to the virulence of the BA.5 subvariant.
“Nothing really significantly different I would say, just more symptoms. It’s a more virulent infection,” she said during a recent Facebook Live.
Experts warn patients that the severity, or even type, of initial symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.
“I think it really varies from person to person,” Welbel said. “It depends on the age, it depends on the comorbid disease, it depends on the vaccination status, if one was infected before potentially their you know, the immune system is more activated… So I think it there’s no way to protect it to predict it.”
The CDC says the median time to onset of symptoms in a patient with the different omicron lineages could be as little as three days.
In general, symptoms will usually appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC. However, their duration may depend on the person, the severity of their infection, and whether or not they end up with long COVID.
“Some people say they feel better within a day, others say they still have lingering symptoms after three weeks,” Welbel said.
Symptoms of the virus include:
– Fever or chills
– Shortness of breath
– Muscle or body pain
-New loss of taste or smell
– Congestion or runny nose
-Nausea or vomiting
Patients are urged to seek emergency medical attention if they experience:
– Persistent chest pain or pressure
– Inability to wake up or stay awake
– Pale, gray or blue skin, lips or nail beds