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Omicron variant symptoms: How it differs from a cold or the flu


Cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S. And medical experts told The Detroit News it could be weeks before Michigan faces its peak in COVID-19 amid record confirmed case counts and hospitalization rates and the rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. 

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 4,581 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a record for the highest number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's unknown how rapidly omicron spreads as compared to the delta variant of the virus, it will likely spread more rapidly than the original strain of COVID-19.

If you're feeling a bit under the weather, know how the symptoms of the omicron variant differ from a cold or flu. However, experts recommend testing is the best way to determine what you have since symptoms of the illnesses can overlap.

Getting vaccinated helps reduce the spread of the viruses, and the CDC says it is safe to get a flu and COVID-19 shot or booster at the same time.

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Here's what to know: 

Omicron symptoms

How exactly the omicron symptoms vary from other variants of COVID-19 is still being figured out. But the CDC released a report in late 2021 that said most people who tested positive for omicron commonly reported: 

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

Symptoms of other variants

The CDC says symptoms for COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms for flu

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, however, CDC says COVID-19 spreads more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people

Symptoms for the flu include: 

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Symptoms of a cold

Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu, CDC says, and can appear one to three days after exposure.

And like COVID-19, symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Fever (sometimes)

What about 'flurona'?

"Flurona" refers to when one person has both the flu and COVID-19 infections at the same time, which health officials say is a possibility as cases of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus surge this winter across the world.

According to the Associated Press, after two young pregnant women tested positive for both the coronavirus and influenza in Israel, many local and global media outlets dubbed it "flurona" in headlines.

There have been other recent occurrences in the United States. Read more about it here.