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Long COVID-19 half as likely with omicron than delta, study finds

The omicron variant causes less severe infections but spreads rapidly. What does that mean for long COVID-19?

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An illustration of the coronavirus.

An illustration of the coronavirus.

Illustration by Michelle Budge, Deseret News

British researchers have found evidence that omicron variants are less likely to give you long COVID-19.

Driving the news: The study, peer-reviewed and published in The Lancet journal, compared the risk of getting long COVID-19 from two different coronavirus strains.

Details: Per Medical News Today, they found that those infected with omicron were 20% to 50% less likely to develop long COVID-19 than those who had the delta variant.

  • But close to 5% of people who catch omicron experience typical long COVID-19 symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, headaches, heart problems and other medical issues a month post-infection.
  • Close to 50,000 volunteers participated in the observational analysis by signing up on a phone app called the ZOE COVID Study, which launched in March 2020, according to NBC News.

What they’re saying: “That’s scary,” Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunobiologist at Yale School of Medicine with a specialization in long COVID-19, told NPR.

  • “People assume that because omicron is milder that, you know, ‘Let’s just get infected and get it over with,’’’ Iwasaki said.

Lead researcher Claire Steves, a senior clinical lecturer at Kings College London, told NPR that the overall number of people getting long COVID-19 “is set to rise.” 

  • “The caveat is that the omicron variant has spread very rapidly through our populations, and therefore a very much larger number of people have been affected,” Steves explained. “So it’s certainly not a time for us to reduce services for long COVID.”

Symptoms of long COVID: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the general symptoms include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Cough.
  • Chest pain.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Brain fog.
  • Headache.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Change in smell or taste.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Joint or muscle pain.
  • Rash.
  • Changes in menstrual cycles.