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COVID-19

Most people infected with Omicron COVID-19 variant didn’t know they had it

A huge percentage of sufferers didn't know they had it and scientists say this lack of awareness led to a surge in Omicron cases.

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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

The majority of people infected by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 were unaware they even had the virus, reveals new research.

A huge 56 percent of sufferers didn't know they had it and this lack of awareness led to a surge in Omicron cases, say scientists.

The symptoms often aren’t severe. Someone infected usually suffers from fatigue, a cough, a headache, a sore throat or a runny nose.

Researchers looked into the effects of COVID-19 and the impact of vaccines.

The investigation started over two years ago. The research team tested the blood of healthcare workers and patients for antibodies that fight against the Omicron variant and surveyed whether those with antibodies were aware they had had the virus.

Study corresponding author Dr. Susan Cheng, of Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in the US, said: “More than one in every two people who were infected with Omicron didn’t know they had it.”

Study first author Sandy Joung, Clinical Research Program Manager at Cedars-Sinai, said: “A low level of infection awareness has likely contributed to the fast spread of Omicron.”

Of the 2,479 participants who contributed blood samples, 210 had positive levels of antibodies. This result indicates that they were likely infected with the virus.

The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, show that out of those infected only 44 percent were aware they had the virus. This left the majority of participants unaware of their infection, as they had either mild symptoms or none at all.

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This research complements previous studies that estimate between 25 percent to 80 per cent of people infected with the Omicron variant do not show symptoms.

Joung said: “Our findings add to evidence that undiagnosed infections can increase transmission of the virus.”

The results show the importance of awareness in tackling surges of infections in the future.

Dr. Cheng said: “Awareness will be key for allowing us to move beyond this pandemic.”

Yet more diverse research needs to be done to uncover factors that are associated with a lack of infection awareness. Researchers believe that more samples from diverse ethnicities and communities are needed.

Dr. Cheng added: “We hope people will read these findings and think, ‘I was just at a gathering where someone tested positive, or, ‘I just started to feel a little under the weather. Maybe I should get a quick test.’

“The better we understand our own risks, the better we will be at protecting the health of the public as well as ourselves.”

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