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Professor reveals the easiest way to spot common flu vs. Omicron

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Professor Anders Sönnerborg of the Karolinska Institute says that while healthy people may mistake the current coronavirus strains for a typical cold, it is essential to keep the infection at a minimum for the sake of the elderly and those who are already vulnerable.

While unusual COVID-19 symptoms, such as loss of smell and taste, were noticeable during the pandemic’s early stages, they are now becoming increasingly rare, to the point where the coronavirus is indistinguishable from a common cold for the fully vaccinated and healthy, according to Swedish Professor Anders Sönnerborg, chief physician of the Karolinska Institute.

Trying to figure out what’s wrong on your own is “completely hopeless”, he says. The rise of new strains, like Omicron, which coincides with the peak season for the common cold, makes it impossible. Simultaneously, the symptom picture seemed to have improved.

“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish a more severe cold and a coronavirus infection in the current situation,” the professor adds.

First and foremost, according to Sönnerborg, vaccination has been shown to be successful in preventing serious illness. Although it has not been verified, there is evidence that the Omicron strain causes a milder course of sickness than previous variants.

“In the UK, there have been tendencies toward milder symptoms even with the Delta strain during the autumn, so it is difficult to say whether there are distinct differences between the strains or it is chiefly a result of vaccination”, Sönnerborg adds.

The flu, on the other hand, is easier to spot because the symptoms are usually more severe, he explains.

“You get a higher fever, a sore throat combined with a severe cough and not least muscle pain. It often differs from the others, although the symptoms naturally overlap”, the expert adds.

Sönnerborg claims that sampling is the only safe way to determine which infection a patient has. At the same time, current risk factors must be taken into account.

“One should be aware that if many people get Omicron, some patients will still end up in hospital with a serious illness. Especially those who are fragile. You must not forget it so that you don’t underestimate the risks,” he further adds.

Even though those who become ill appear to have milder symptoms than before, keeping the infection down is still vital, according to Sönnerborg.

Recent research from South Africa, where the Omicron strain was initially detected, and England and Scotland, where it has spread, suggests that the variant is linked to a lower risk of serious disease, though this has yet to be validated.

Image Credit: Getty

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