Omicron is popularly reported as ‘mild’, but the possibility of long-term symptoms has not been fully explored. Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York School of Public Health, stated “we should assume that this variant can do the same thing that previous variants have until proven otherwise.”

Omicron is now a dominant strain of Covid. Studies show that Omicron infection enhances immunity against the Delta variant, and Omicron is often perceived as mild and unproblematic. However, studies now present the possibility of developing long Covid after Omicron infection.  

Potentially adversely impacting anywhere from 10% to 30% of the COVID-19 total case count, Long Covid signifies ongoing symptoms, without complete recovery. With minimal data, it is unknown what the post-Omicron health implications are. It is a concern as new sub-strains of Omicron are reported. According to the Harvard immunologist, Dr. Shiv Pillai, there is a variant of Omicron, BA.2., which is spreading widely in India.  TrialSite introduced the variant in association with a report from the UK’s Health Security Agency.

Can Omicron Cause Long Covid?

Studies report that Covid can spread through cell-to-cell transmission in organs and tissues. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US infectious disease expert and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned in a recent interview that long Covid is possible regardless of  the variant, The public should monitor and manage their post-Covid symptoms.Subscribe to the Trialsitenews “SARS-CoV-2” ChannelNo spam – we promise

The Omicron variant was first detected in late November 2021, and data with respect to long Covid symptoms are scarce. Studies on previous variants show that long Covid can develop in individuals with mild symptoms or asymptomatic infection.

What Impact Do Vaccines Have?

New studies reported a higher risk of long Covid among non-hospitalized 30-day patients. These individuals experienced breakthrough Covid infections. Their symptoms were in the pulmonary system as well as other organ systems resulting in cardiovascular disorders, coagulation disorders, fatigue, and gastrointestinal disorders.

The study, a preprint, non-peer review involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs database concluded that long Covid is associated with breakthrough Covid infections. However, it noted that the risk was still higher in those unvaccinated. According to the study, the vaccination somehow conferred and reduced the risk for breakthrough infections. Preventing breakthrough Covid itself, when a vaccinated person is infected regardless, is a must to lessen the risk and burden of long Covid. 

The study authors, led by Ziyad Al-Aly from the VA Saint Louis Health Care System wrote:

Altogether, our findings show increased risks of death and post-acute sequelae in people with breakthrough COVID-19; the risks are evident among those who were not hospitalized during the acute phase of the disease. Our comparative approach provides context for understanding the risks in relation to COVID-19 without prior vaccination and seasonal influenza. The findings will inform the ongoing effort to optimize strategies for prevention of breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections and will guide development and optimization of post-acute care pathways for people with breakthrough COVID-19.”

Currently, no studies prove the vaccination’s preventive effects on long Covid symptoms. At this stage, the vaccines’ primary function is to prevent serious and life-threatening infections. This may in turn help mitigate the effects of long Covid or prevent it. The vaccines do, however, show reduced efficacy against new variants such as Omicron.

Research has now confirmed that mutations of Omicron are still emerging. For example, a team led by scientists from Boston College have recently developed a model to predict future Covid mutations, providing experts with a futuristic look at the emerging variants of concern. The model generates preliminary predictions about the mutations and immune response of Covid variants. It also helps identify mutations that strengthen the virus’ affinity. With this, researchers conclude Omicron may evolve into a more powerful virus.

There are still more studies required about Omicron and its link to long Covid. Until such findings can confirm that Omicron is not a variant of concern, most public health authorities suggest the public should remain vigilant and must take all necessary measures that ensure their protection from the virus.

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