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Omicron variant symptoms are milder, but more research is needed, WHO says

The omicron variant is causing more mild illness among COVID-19 patients

A staff member prepares a Johnson & Johnson booster vaccine.
A staff member from the National Health Organisation prepares a booster Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 at Karatepe refugee camp, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. WHO has indicated that omicron variant symptoms have been milder.
Panagiotis Balaskas, Associated Press

The World Health Organization said it has found more evidence that the omicron variant causes milder COVID-19 symptoms among those infected.

Per Reuters, WHO said the omicron variant targets the upper respiratory tract, which causes mild COVID-19 symptoms compared to previous COVID-19 variants.

  • This is why COVID-19 case numbers are high but hospitalizations are low.

WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud said more research needs to be done.

  • “We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia,” Mahamud said, per Reuters. “It can be a good news, but we really require more studies to prove that.”

According to The New York Times, recent research suggests that they cause less damage to the lungs. The variant appears to hit the nose, throat and windpipe, which has led to fewer symptoms.

  • Previous COVID-19 variants targeted the lungs, causing shortness of breath coughing, which were two main COVID-19 symptoms.
  • “It’s fair to say that the idea of a disease that manifests itself primarily in the upper respiratory system is emerging,” he said, per The New York Times.

That said, some research suggests that the omicron variant can evade the COVID-19 vaccine and cause severe illness among the unvaccinated. Experts still recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine and the COVID-19 booster shot to stay safe.