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Why omicron variant patients are experiencing ‘different’ symptoms compared to each other

The omicron variant has created various symptoms in patients, raising questions about how the virus may show up in anyone

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An illustration of the omicron variant.

The omicron variant has created various symptoms in patients, raising questions about how the virus may appear in individuals.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

The omicron variant is still new enough that doctors are still using anecdotal data to explain what’s happening to COVID-19 patients. And, in many cases, doctors and health officials are seeing different omicron variant symptoms in various patients.

What’s happening: Multiple readers of MPR News recently asked Dr. Melanie Swift, co-chairwoman of Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution Work Group, about the omicron coronavirus variant, the COVID-19 vaccine and related topics.

  • One person asked if they were going to lose their sense of taste and smell from the omicron variant, or if that was simply a sign of the delta variant.

Loss of taste and smell has been a symptom of all previous COVID-19 variants, Swift said. But there is still so much unknown about omicron.

  • “Interestingly — and this is still anecdotal information that we are compiling and observing — there are some different presentations that we’ve seen in omicron,” she said.
  • “One is kind of a milder cold-like syndrome, very much like earlier variants but a little bit milder and often without that loss of taste and smell that was really characteristic of COVID before omicron. Another presentation that we’re seeing is more of a gastrointestinal illness — and some of those patients actually don’t have any respiratory symptoms at all.”


The bigger picture: Indeed, stomach problems have become a common omicron variant symptom. Health officials in Alabama recently warned patients that they might experience stomach bugs and gastrointestinal symptoms after infection.

  • “With delta, the upper respiratory symptoms were very severe. It was in the lung. Patients would have pneumonia, respiratory failure and would go on a ventilator,” said Dr. Bill Admire, with Infirmary Health, according to WPMI-TV. “But with omicron, patients with gastrointestinal problems are flaring up and having more symptoms.”