Does Omicron Cause Smell and Taste Loss?

The SARS-CoV-2 strain reported in South Africa in November of 2021 has been given the name B.1.1.529, which is the Omicron variant of that strain. This variant exhibits more than 30 mutations on SARS-CoV’s spike protein, which is a protein that serves as a key target for the immune response to the virus.

The Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus manifests itself in a number of ways, with symptoms similar to previous variants. One symptom it has in common with other variants of the disease is an inability to smell or taste.

Five people in a recent Nebraska outbreak of Covid-19 were reinfected with the virus, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control. Four of the individuals reported loss of taste or smell during their first infection; however, none reported it a second time.

Omicron-fueled outbreaks have been documented in numerous countries, with most cases beginning during holiday parties and family get-togethers. In another omicron-fueled outbreak at a Christmas party in Norway, researchers examined symptomatic individuals and reported that 12% experienced smell loss and 23% reported reduced taste.

Data from the Zoe COVID Symptom Study, a smartphone app that collects daily self-reported data about people’s Covid-19 symtpoms, indicated that less than 20% of participants who have tested positive for COVID-19 reported a loss of smell over the past few weeks.

What symptoms are unique to Omicron?

Night sweats along with a sore throat are some of the outward signs that distinguish Omicron from other variants of COVID-19. Unlike Delta and other previous strains of the virus, Omicron does not appear to be widely associated with the loss of smell and taste.

Common Omicron symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle pain and headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, chill or night sweats
  • Runny nose and congestion

Does the vaccine reduce smell and taste loss symptoms?

Studies currently don’t currently isolate for specific segments of the population. Correlations between vaccination status, age, and health issues may not include the full range of participants.

Responses to the omicron virus among fully vaccinated people appear to be much less severe than those of unvaccinated populations. However, taste and smell loss are still among symptoms being reported among the vaccinated.

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