LOS ANGELES — The Omicron variant of COVID has continued to mutate and prolong the global pandemic, with some studies saying the virus is now more contagious and may cause even more severe symptoms. However, a new study finds that the majority of people infected with the Omicron variant don’t even know they have it!
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center say as many as 56 percent of COVID-positive individuals were unaware they were sick. This lack of awareness has led to an increase in Omicron cases, according to scientists.
The symptoms are often not serious. Many patients usually experience fatigue, cough, headache, sore throat or runny nose. Researchers looked at the effects of COVID and the impact of vaccines on disease severity.
The investigation started more than two years ago. The team tested the blood of health professionals and patients for antibodies fighting the Omicron variant and examined whether those with antibodies knew they had the virus.
“More than one in two people infected with Omicron didn’t know they had it,” says Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Division of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute in Cedars- Sinai, in a press release. “Awareness will be the key to enabling us to overcome this pandemic.”
“Our study results add to the evidence that undiagnosed infections can increase transmission of the virus,” adds first author Sandy Joung, MHDS, a researcher at Cedars-Sinai. “Low levels of infection awareness likely contributed to Omicron’s rapid spread.”
Up to 4 in 5 people with Omicron have no symptoms
Of the 2,479 participants who contributed blood samples, 210 had positive levels of antibodies. This result indicates that they probably once carried the virus.
The findings, published in JAMA network opened, it turns out that only 44 percent of those infected knew they were sick. Because of this, the majority of participants were unaware of their infection, having either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
This study complements previous studies that estimate that 25 to 80 percent of people with the Omicron variant show no symptoms. The results demonstrate the importance of raising awareness in tackling the proliferation of infections in the future.
The study authors add that more diverse research is needed to uncover factors associated with a lack of infection awareness. Researchers also believe that scientists should collect more samples from different ethnicities and communities.
“We hope people will read these findings and think, ‘I was just at a meeting where someone tested positive,’ or, ‘I was just starting to feel a little bad. Maybe I should do a quick test.’ The better we understand our own risks, the better we will be at protecting the health of both the public and ourselves,” said Cheng, the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science at Cedars-Sinai.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.
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