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Omicron variant vs. delta: Is there a difference in symptoms?

The differences between the two COVID-19 variants, explained

SHARE Omicron variant vs. delta: Is there a difference in symptoms?
An illustration representing the delta variant.

The differences between the two COVID-19 variants, explained.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus emerged as the delta variant continued to cause havoc with people across the country.

Experts worried that the two coronavirus variants are hitting at the same time, possibly causing a massive influx of COVID-19 patients at hospitals across the country. With two coronaviruses and the flu spreading this winter season, health care workers may be facing a difficult winter.

  • Some may be wondering if they’ve been infected with the cold, the flu, the delta variant or the omicron variant. We’ve written about how COVID-19 differs from the flu and cold before. So how do the delta and omicron variants differ?

Dr. Sam Elgawly, director of clinical excellence at Inova System, a health care company in Virginia, recently told WJLA in Washington that there aren’t major differences.

  • “I think the simplest answer to the question, honestly, is that there aren’t many actual differences between delta and omicron for the most part,” said Elgawly.

However, Elgawly said there are some subtle differences between the variants. For example, the omicron variant appears to cause a scratchy throat compared to a sore throat. And the loss of taste and smell appears to be less prevalent.

  • “If you put them side by side — delta, omicron — that’s one of the things that they’re seeing a little bit less off with omicron,” Elgawly said.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that getting a COVID-19 test is the best way to see if you’re infected with COVID-19. However, sometimes it might require more than one test to determine if you’re infected, she said.

  • “We do know that the most sensitive test that you can do is a PCR test, so if you have symptoms and you have a negative antigen test, then we do ask you to go and get a PCR to make sure that those symptoms are not attributable to Covid,” she said.
  • “Antigen tests still work quite well, and they work well especially in places that we’re using them, like in higher education, in test to stay in schools where we’re doing several tests, one every other day, every third day, and that’s really when they work well as well. So, we still are encouraging their use, they may not work as well as they had for the delta variant,” Walensky said.